A few months ago Kristine McCormick, Outdoors Experience Manager at Virginia's Blue Ridge connected KX3 Co-Founder Nicola Cranmer with Melisa Ludtke to speak at TEDx Boston. Melissa is an award-winning journalist she reported and wrote for Sports Illustrated and Time and was editor of Nieman Reports at Harvard University.
"Melissa came across the article in the Roanoke Times regarding Rukhsar's journey and how we had connected from afar through cycling. I felt this was a perfect opportunity for Rukhsar to share her story as the plight of Afghanistan becomes eclipsed by other news. The Afghan women's cycling team used the bicycle as a vehicle for social justice, enduring violence and social stigma and were nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize by members of the Italian parliament.
Thank you John Werner and Melissa and the TEDx Boston team for a wonderfully inspiring and emotional event and for providing these women the opportunity to share experiences". - Nicola
Rukhsar's Epic Strides
"My name is Rukhsar Habibzai I’m member of Virginia’s Blue Ridge TWENTY24 a professional women cycling team and supportive community. I really loved watching the boys riding bikes in the streets of Kabul, Afghanistan. They looked so strong and cool, and I wanted to try it too. I thought that boys and girls are equal and so I tried to ride a bicycle. On first day while I was practicing on my street, a man shouted at me “Don’t you have any shame for a riding a bike in public”. This sentence scared me so much at first and then it made me think deeply about the lack of gender equality that we have in Afghanistan where boys can follow their dreams and girls can only become housewives. And that is how my journey of becoming a sportswoman began.
I feel extremely lucky to be a part of Virginia's Blue Ridge TWENTY24 that gave me a new chance to live and follow my dream of becoming a successful sportswoman. There are thousands of other girls in Afghanistan that do not have this opportunity. Women's cycling is taboo in our society and any woman who wants to become a sportswoman or athlete must first fight her family and relatives and the whole society to pursue the dream of becoming a sportswoman. People look down on women that join sports or try to work to become independent.
Our team in Afghanistan had only 15 participants in the start 2014 little to no support from the public and by the end of 2021 we had managed to reach 60 female cyclists from all provinces of Afghanistan. We were nominated for Nobel Peace Prize in 2016 for our humanitarian efforts for women's rights.
All of our girls worked day and night and suffered emotional and physical abuse from the public every minute of their life. Men shouted at us and threw rocks at us when we rode our bikes. Our cycling dream came to an end in Afghanistan at the end of 2021 when the Taliban took over the country. With the help of the kindest people such Afzal and Baba Afzal. I survived and came here to America to restart my life and I feel so grateful for that. But I am only one girl out of millions that are still stuck in Afghanistan living under the cruelty of Taliban.
My goal is to become a champion one day and prove to the world that any girl is strong enough to dream and fight for their rights.
I want the world not to forget Afghanistan, my people are dying under the power of a cruel government who stops little girls from going to schools. Afghanistan needs the support of countries like USA who believes in peace prosperity."
~ Thank you for reading, Rukhsar Habibzai. Nobel Peace Prize nominee, Virginia's Blue Ridge TWENTY24 team member.
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