A group of Muslim female athletes and adventurers from around the globe have embarked on a 462-mile, seven-day bike ride for Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI) 2015 to raise awareness for gender equality in the athletic world.
They call themselves Team Shirzanan – the Persian word for ‘female heroes.’ However, that name does not even begin to do them justice.
This incredible Dream Team consists of:
- Raha Moharrak: the youngest Arab and the world’s first Saudi to conquer Mt. Everest.
- Kiran Khan: one of the first female Pakistani Olympic swimmers who won seven gold medals, three silver, and three bronze.
- Hajar Abulfazl: Afghani soccer player.
- Mona Seraji: Iranian female snowboard ambassador and surfer.
- Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir: a 24-year-old Basketball player from Massachusetts who was prevented from playing professional Basketball in Europe because the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) has a ban on headgear.
- Rehab Shawky: Egyptian global cyclist.
- Amani Ammoura: Jordanian global cyclist.
- Kulsoom Abdullah: Pakistani-American weightlifter who is also the first weightlifter to compete completely covered.
- Soolmaz Abooali: ten-time U.S. National Champion and world medalist in karate.
Around the world, females are not granted equal access to sports. Take it from each of these exceptional athletes, since all nine of them have overcome thousands of obstacles to achieve their goals. This week, these nine trailblazers are biking across the state of Iowa to promote access to sports as a fundamental right, encourage females to participate in sports, and in turn promote greater independence.
Why riding a bike though? Here’s what the team has to say:
In some parts of the world, a female riding a bicycle is considered a morality crime. People often throw rocks at girls on bikes or use vehicles to try to run them off the road. In oppressive nations, bicycling offers a freedom not granted to women. On RAGBRAI, we will celebrate our right to ride.We know that sports do not simply offer the joy of playing. They also provide the foundation to good health, education, and economic opportunities. No female of any country should be denied the right to physical education class in public school or the opportunity to receive academic training through sports scholarships.Riding a bicycle is not just a mode of transportation. It is means to independence and improvements like these:
- Female teachers can reach rural schools where men are not allowed to teach adolescent girls
- Girls have access to distant schools
- Mothers can provide for their families given the ability to work farther from home to seek more job opportunities
- Sick women are more likely to get to the hospital when in need of treatment
- Victims of domestic violence can leave their unsafe homes with less fear
- Midwives can reach remote communities to prevent mortalities in childbirth
RAGBRAI began on July 19 and will run for a week. Team Shirzanan needs your help to host these athletes and provide them with the necessities along their journey. Donate to the cause here, and help Team Shirzanan bike the way for female athletes around the world! Show your support by tweeting them using #RideforRights and #TeamShirzanan.