Smile!

In Afghanistan, where it’s considered taboo for women to ride bicycles, there is a movement of change. A non-profit named Skateistan has given young girls a badass kind of fun. The organization uses skateboarding to empower marginalized youths and rescue them from the streets. It transitions kids into a community that teaches them about leadership and independence. Learning To Skateboard In A Warzone (If You’re a Girl) is the name of the documentary about the non-profit’s mission in Afghanistan. It brought fame to Skateistan after it won the 2020 Academy Award for Best Short Film in February. Over 60% of their students are from low-income families with no access to education. Through their program, kids are given endless possibilities. From inculcating confidence and autonomy, to letting kids be kids and showing them love, the organization accomplishes a lot. Before this project started, kids didn’t even know what skateboarding was.

Photographer Jessica Fulford-Dobson was inspired by the young women’s joy and chose to document the non-profit’s success. She gained notoriety for one photograph in particular. She describes the girl as “wearing such a beautiful color. She’s just immaculate. From the way she has tied her headscarf so beautifully and so naturally, you see that she has an innate sense of grace. Her little hennaed hand rests gently—yet possessively—on the skateboard, and how small she seems beside it! I love her assurance: her firm, steady gaze. One feels a sense of depth in her eyes, even though she is just 7 years of age!”

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