When eight-year-old Pashtana Rasoul left her home for a scholarship with the Afghan Child Education and Care Organization (AFCECO), she dreamed of playing women’s soccer for her country. Pashtana grew up mired in poverty, selling water on the streets of Peshwar with her siblings, but life turned dire after the imprisonment of her father by a Jehadi war faction, and the family found themselves in a refugee camp. With the help of the AFCECO, Rasoul pursued a career in professional sports and played with the National Football Team of Afghanistan against South Asian teams including Pakistan, Bangladesh, and India.
Women's sports were explicitly banned during the Taliban, and the Ghazi National Olympic Stadium was used for public executions and corporeal punishment. Today, Pashtana has played soccer within its walls.
Undeterred by the Taliban’s lingering influence on Afghan society, Rasoul now works as the executive director of the AFCECO. In a country where 60% of girls are married by 16, and 85% remain illiterate, she’s doing all she can to widen the horizon of opportunity for Afghanistan’s next generation of women. Rasoul now sponsors a team for the girls of the AFCECO, proving that her inspiring determination and resilience live on in their passion for the game.
Want to know more Pashtana's incredible story? Check out this up-close look at the women of Afghanistan's ongoing struggle for equality.
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Refinery29’s original series “Behind the Headlines” takes an in-depth, human look at the policy debates dominating the global news media, from American immigration reform to the continuing struggles of Syrian refugees and Afghanistan’s lingering gender inequality crisis. Bypassing the pundits, we’re dedicated to spotlighting the stories of the people whose lives have been profoundly impacted by these issues, and believe that their voices must be heard.