How We Are Creating Leaders For a Better World!
The United Nations Sustainable Development goal number 5 is focused on gender equality. A specific focus within this is “ensuring women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decisionmaking in political, economic and public life.” Skateistan aims to do this and leads by example. As a non-profit that aims to empower girls through skateboarding and education, we know that the way to inspire them is to have female role models paving the way. We have 30 female staff worldwide and female Youth Leaders at all four of our Skate Schools in Afghanistan, Cambodia and South Africa. These staff members and Youth Leaders are valuable and influential role models that help to address the topic of gender equality and shift perspectives in their wider communities.
Skateistan Youth Leaders are students who have shown enthusiasm and motivation to pass on what they have learned to the younger kids. They are the more confident girls who want to lead the way. “When I grow up I want to be a teacher, and when I am a teacher in the future I would like to teach kids everything that I learned, also to help my country.” explains Pakiza* a student in Afghanistan. The Youth Leadership program, which runs at all of our Skate Schools, helps girls to reach their potential to become positive role models and to initiate community projects of their own.
Sikha* is one of them. She started as a student, and her confidence grew through Skateistan’s skateboarding and educational programs. She is now a Youth Leader in at the Skate School in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. “So much has changed since the beginning until now. For example in the past I was just a small girl student skating with big people and afraid of them, but now I am teaching skateboarding and art class.” she explains “This is what I have waited for, for so many years. It’s like my dream came true.” Her story is not uncommon around the Skate Schools. The long-term impact of the Youth Leadership Program can be seen in the dozens of youth who have become leaders, inspiring the younger generation!
Many of our key staff worldwide are women, an active step we have taken. Kelly Murray is the Programs Officer in Johannesburg, and she has been known to inspire a few of the kids with her skate skills. Kelly is one of the best female skaters in South Africa, she believes and has seen first hand the power of girls to inspire other girls. “We need more female leaders and volunteers to inspire the students and to create a bigger girl skate community here in Johannesburg.” Kelly and the South African team have already put this into action and are encouraging female participation through girls-only sessions at the Skate School three times a week. It’s paying off. “These sessions have created confident female students and we see an increase in numbers weekly! The girls already try new things in the skatepark.” explains Kelly. “We want to build a community of strong, independent women who have no limits because of their gender.”
Earlier this year, Kelly travelled to Phnom Penh, Cambodia for the first-ever cultural exchange between Skate Schools. This was an opportunity for staff members to learn from each other, swap skills and, most excitingly of all, skate together. Kelly met Tim the Programs Officer of the Skate School in Phnom Penh. Tin started as a Skate and Create student and went on to become a Youth Leader, then volunteer and now staff member. She is a great example of the impact Skateistan can have on lives. Tin was a shy girl when she first came to Skateistan and was unsure of her skating ability. She is now Cambodia’s best female skater, a full time Skateistan staff member, a radio presenter and, most of all, an inspiration to the students of Skateistan.
“Skating feels fantastic and it really helped me a lot — to build trust with people, to build confidence and help me make a lot of friends. I want to share what I got from Skateistan and skateboarding with more kids.” she explains.
The women working for us locally and internationally have made an impact on the lives of thousands of students at Skateistan, their peers and the world. Take Programs Officer, Zainab. She was part of the first ever Afghan women’s team to run an ultramarathon and ran the first official Afghan marathon. She is a pioneer of women’s running in her country and an inspiration to women around the world. Her story, which has been widely documented in the media, is showing other girls and women that they can make their dreams come true, no matter the obstacles!
Thanks to Skateistan, a supportive community and safe spaces exist in Afghanistan, Cambodia and South Africa. The girls who are part of programs are not only given the opportunity to take part in sports and education but are provided with healthy role models to inspire them and show them the way. They learn what it means to be a girl can be anything they dream of. Their horizons are broadened by the Skate School environment and the female leaders of Skateistan.
Skateistan believes girls and women have an equal right to be leaders. From December 5th, Skateistan is asking the public to Give Her Five by donating $5 in a bid to raise $100,000 by December 31st! Give Her Five at skateistan.org/donate.