Shegufa Bayat, Mariam Muhammadi and Hanifa Yousoufi are three passionate outdoor leaders who have been supported by Ascend Athletics, a US-based not-for-profit organisation dedicated to empowering young women in Afghanistan through mountaineering-based leadership training.
Every year, the charity recruits a new cohort of women aged 15-24 on a two-year, 6-day-a-week training programme that develops their physical fitness, rock climbing, campcraft and mountaineering skills, and involves them in civil engagement projects such as outdoor education clubs. Not only do these women become role models for their community, they also become ambassadors for the outdoors and help widen the positive impact of outdoor education across Afghanistan.
Marina LeGree, Founder and Director of Ascend Athletics, said “I’m thrilled with the week and really grateful for the opportunity to open this new aspect of our program. It was a fantastic learning experience for the girls and helps us improve our alpine training. We felt support from many quarters, which made this all possible.”
“The wonderful people at the Jonathan Conville Memorial Trust have been so generous and are the ones who started this all. Their support caused a snowball effect, and we were able to find further support to pull all the pieces together from GIZ (travel costs), the French embassy in Kabul (issuing the girls’ visas), the campground in Argentiere, Le Chosalets (donating the campsite), and the goodwill and personal generosity of several Ascend volunteers, who came to Chamonix and supported in myriad ways.”
“A highlight for the girls was certainly flying the Afghan flag at the summit of Tete Blanche. For the development of our team members as both mountaineers and confident young leaders, this course was fantastic. We hope to do it again.”