Are you allowed to ride a bicycle? For Afghan girls and women, that’s a no. If they dare, people may throw rocks at them or call them unspeakable names. The Global Ride for Solidarity coming up this weekend is designed to catalyze a new cultural paradigm in the country, one that finds riding a bicycle in Afghanistan as normal as walking.
American National Geographic Adventurer and Afghan Cycles Producer Shannon Galpin has spent the last seven years working in Afghanistan, driven it seems by a powerful conviction that bicycles can be used as a conduit for social change and justice – particularly for young girls and women.
She founded the non-profit Mountain2Mountain to provide tools that help women ride their bicycles freely, and is now working really hard to help ensure that athletes can train and compete in a safe environment both at home and abroad.
This includes working with local officials and elders to alter their perspective of the bicycle’s role and worth in a community, and involving them in a movement to normalize female cycling so that it is no longer considered an egregious social taboo.
Shannon Galpin wants to turn the bicycle into a catalyst of freedom. And she appears to be going through smart and respectful channels in order to make that happen.
“A recent Human Rights Watch study states that Afghans perceive women’s cycling as a step above morality crimes like adultery,” she writes on her website. But you can help slay that myth.
On August 30, 2014, get on a bike, ask someone to take a photo or stage a selfie, and post it on all your social media sites – such as Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to show that you support women and cycling – everywhere in the world. And for maximum effect and fun, be sure to use these hashtags: #pedalarevolution #afghancycles #solidarityride2014.
Whether you join a ride or create your own, there are numerous ways to show your solidarity with the Afghan women who know the thrill of riding through epic mountains, who have tasted the blessed freedom that comes with being a powerhouse on a bike.
You might also want to catch Afghan Cycles, a feature length documentary that explores what life is like for members of the Afghan Women’s National Cycling team. A Let Media production directed by Sarah Menzies, the documentary incorporates storytelling and striking footage in often inhospitable and dangerous territory. This project could also use your support.
Visit Solidarity Ride on Facebook for more information.