Thirteen-year-old Latifa* lives in Afghanistan, a country that has experienced more than 30 years of ongoing conflict and disruption. But Latifa is beaming, because she has discovered her own leadership potential through a program called Skateistan.
In Afghanistan, 68% of the population is under the age of 25, and 50% is under the age of 16.** With a population this young, it is vital that development efforts in Afghanistan engage with youth - something that is often overlooked. Access to education is severely restricted, especially for young girls, who are also often barred from participating in sports.
"I come to Skateistan because I believe that the things that I love I can find and learn here: skateboarding, basketball, soccer and other sports,” says Latifa. “There is no place like this Skate School, because I can do and play things that I can’t do and play in other places.”
Skateistan uses innovative, youth-led programming that builds confidence, trust, and social capital among children. Using the hook of skateboarding and other sports, they connect children with education to help break the cycle of poverty and exclusion amongst youth who would otherwise not have these opportunities.
“The most important things for me in my life are education and also basketball! The education and sports that I get at Skateistan are very useful for my life,” agrees Latifa. “I do skateboarding because it’s a new sport in Afghanistan and it’s the first time that it takes place here. I want to look good when I am doing it and I want to learn the tricks of this sport!”
Some of Skateistan’s greatest success can be seen among the youth who have become volunteers or staff, and who now play an active role in supporting their peers. Laureus Sport for Good is using money raised through Red Nose Day to fund Skateistan’s Youth Leadership program, which gives exceptional or motivated students the opportunity to be the teachers and role models for the younger students.
One of those role models is Latifa. She first started with Skateistan as a student and is now a Youth Leader, helping to teach the younger students in Mazar-e-Sharif how to skate while exploring her own passion for basketball. She is an inspirational example of a motivated student who has used the Youth Leadership program to pass on what she has learned to the wider community.
“Skateistan stands for helping children and teaching them skills, and I am an example of that,” says Latifa. “My message to others kids is to study hard and do sports that they love.”
* Name has been changed to protect privacy.
** According to Skateistan