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
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: https://www.lovewelcomes.org/