Asylum Speakers Podcast with Jaz O'Hara: Stories of Migration


38. From defending on the football pitch, to defending the rights of Afghanistan's women and girls, with Khalida Popal

Season 6, Ep. 3

This International Women's Day, It's only right that I bring you the story of one of the most incredible women that I know... Khalida Popal.

Khalida grew up playing football with her brothers in Afghanistan, and even though she faced serious discrimination from her community as a result, she went on to form the Afghan women’s football league with her friends. Despite death threats at the hands of extremist and anti-women's-rights groups, she went on to be the first woman on the board of the Afghan football federation, the first female employee of the federation, and the captain of the Women’s National Team after being the driving force behind it’s growth.

But as Khalida’s profile grew, so too did the threat to her safety, and Khalida was forced to leave Afghanistan and begin her journey as a refugee. After living in various refugee camps she has been granted asylum in Denmark, but has never lost ties with her homeland. 

Last year, when the Taliban seized power of Afghanistan, Khalida worked tirelessly to campaign for the safe evacuation of the Afghan women’s football teams, who had become targets to the Taliban (who do not allow women to participate in or even attend sporting events). Khalida rallied the international community and was eventually successful in safely evacuating over 300 people - the players and their familes, to both Australia and the UK. 

Khalida continues to advocate for the rights of women and girls through her organisation Girl Power, which uses sport as a tool to empower, connect and unify women and girls from all cultures and social backgrounds. 

This episode is brought to you by Love Welcomes:

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37. What's happening in Sudan? Everything you need to know and what you can do about it, with Waging Peace

Season 6, Ep. 2
Today’s podcast episode is about a country very close to my heart - Sudan.Like most people in the UK, I grew up without any knowledge of what was happening in Sudan. In my history lessons at school I learnt about the Holocaust and the ethnic cleansing that happened during the second world war, but I learnt nothing about the current genocide in Sudan that continues to this day.It wasn’t until I went to uni and I somehow blagged my way onto a scholarship programme to study Mandarin in Beijing, (a story for another time), but I was sharing a room with a now good friend of mine Anna, who was studying the genocide in Darfur (a region in Sudan) for her degree. She was my first introduction to the situation there. She gave me the context, she told me stories about what she was reading, and I remember lying in bed one night in our room in Beijing, watching a film together called ‘Attack on Darfur’ - a hollywoodised, but pretty accurate depiction of what is happening there.That film still haunts me honestly. This is a warning for anyone who watches it - it was the most heartbreaking film I’ve ever seen, but it served a very important purpose for me.Fast forward about 5 years or so and I found myself in the Calais Jungle refugee camp for the first time, chatting to a guy there who told me he was from Darfur. As he talked about how his village had been burnt to the ground and he showed me the scars on his legs from where bullets had hit him, I thought back to that film and those conversations with Anna, and I was grateful that I knew even just a little bit about what he was telling me. I realised though that I still had a lot to learn.Since then, I’ve met many wonderful Sudanese people along my journey. I’m happy to call some of them my best friends, you guys might remember my conversation with Awad in Episode 2, and I also have a Sudanese foster brother.This episode comes after many conversations with them about the best way to encourage understanding and awareness for the people of Sudan. It aims to be a comprehensive introduction into the history, but through personal stories that make this information accessible to everyone.In it we hear from three wonderful women sharing their knowledge and stories about Sudan. First, Sonja and Maddy, from an amazing organisation called Waging Peace who support the Sudanese community in the UK, then Marwa, who shares her personal experience of living in and leaving Sudan. Her testimony is an honour to be able to include and share with you.To learn more about Waging Peace: check out the products made by our lovely sponsor: (use the code WWT for 10% off at checkout)To support Asylum Speakers by buying a t-shirt or a hoodie: support Asylum Speakers by donating: get in touch: