Meet Hajar Abulfazl, Afghan national team player and coach of the Under-19s. She describes how important her family has been to realizing her dreams and what she hopes she can achieve for other women and girls through her efforts, including taking part in this world record-breaking challenge.

Want to help Hajar get up Mt Kilimanjaro and inspire the next generation? Visit www.startsomegood/equalplayingfield  

I was born in Kabul, Afghanistan. My family had to leave the country because of war, When the war finished, we returned to Kabul where I started playing football at school, aged 14. After playing in several tournaments, I was selected for the national team in 2008. I am a former captain of the team, head of the women’s and finance committees for the Afghanistan Football Federation, and currently coach the Under-19s team. I am also a proud Athlete Ambassador for Shirzanan, a Muslim Women Sports Advocacy group.

I’m dedicated to female empowerment through sports and try to speak with girls and to the media as often as possible to raise awareness for the human right and benefits of participation. As a recent medical school graduate, I emphasize the health and social implications.

I co-founded Tawana Youth Development Organization (TYDO), which organizes school visits and sports festivals to promote sports among girls in the country. I love coaching Tawana where I have 18 players practicing three times a week. In rural areas, it’s much more difficult for girls to play -  often because of instability in the country. Parents want to keep the girls home and protected.

But, girls are also kept off the playing field because their parents and brothers maintain conservative views that sports are for boys, girls are weak, and girls should stay home. Every day, I hear a new story about girls giving up their dreams to play – or sometimes even go to school – because they don’t have support.

My family was different. I am part of a big family, the third of eight sisters and four brothers. I have been lucky to have siblings and parents who support, encourage and protect me - and that includes my football activities. Despite cultural taboos, my father and mother let me play and talk to media as a role model to other girls and to their parents. We show them that sports are positive for the individual, family, and society by making girls stronger and productive.

I hope for a future where barriers and discrimination don’t kill the dreams of women and girls worldwide. There’s a long way to go to influence gender norms and gain the support of men and boys who recognize their sisters, daughters and wives all deserve equal opportunities.

Equality to me means women and men with equal freedom to think, to make decisions, to choose the path of our own lives, and to seek our own achievements. Equality means women being allowed to be the champion and superstar of their own lives.

Football enriched my life. It taught me discipline and commitment, success and failure. Because of football, I have traveled around the world and participated in multi-national and cross-cultural exchanges like the Equal Playing Field Initiative. I have been able to learn and contribute to peace and understanding through sports.
 

I am so excited and honored to unite and unify with the great, diverse Equal Playing Field international team climbing Mt Kilimanjaro.

If you would like to support Hajar break a world record and inspire a new generation please donate here www.startsomegood/equalplayingfield   

To find out more about the challenge, please go to www.equalplayingfield.com