In recent years, Afghanistan has seen an increase in violence and political instability, causing many Afghan citizens to flee their homes and seek refuge elsewhere. Among those affected are Afgan women, who have faced numerous challenges in accessing education, healthcare, and employment opportunities. However, a non-profit organization called Ascend is helping Afghan women overcome these challenges through rock climbing.
Ascend, supported by outdoor brand Patagonia, was founded in 2015 by Marina LeGree, a former Peace Corps volunteer who lived in Afghanistan for several years. The organization’s mission is to empower young women from conflict and post-conflict regions through outdoor adventure sports. Ascend offers rock climbing programs in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the United States, and has impacted the lives of over 200 women.
One of Ascend’s most successful initiatives is its Afghanistan program, which focuses on providing rock climbing opportunities to women in Kabul. The program began in 2017 and has since expanded to other parts of Afghanistan. Through the program, women are taught rock climbing skills, safety measures, and leadership development. They are also given opportunities to participate in outdoor expeditions and competitions.
Rock climbing may seem like an unlikely tool for women’s empowerment in a country like Afghanistan, but it has proven to be effective. By learning to climb, Afghan women gain a sense of physical and mental strength, build self-confidence, and develop problem-solving skills. Climbing also provides a safe space for women to challenge social norms and stereotypes, as well as form strong bonds with other women.
In addition to its Afghanistan program, Ascend also runs a mentorship program for young women in the United States who have experienced trauma. The program connects girls with female mentors who use rock climbing and other outdoor activities to help them heal and grow.
The partnership between Ascend and Patagonia is a powerful example of how outdoor brands can use their influence and resources to promote social and environmental change. Patagonia has been a longtime advocate for protecting the planet and supporting local communities, and its partnership with Ascend aligns with its values.
The expansion of relocated Afghan women through rock climbing with Ascend is a story of resilience, hope, and empowerment. Through their determination and the support of organizations like Ascend and Patagonia, Afghan women are overcoming the challenges they face and achieving their dreams. Rock climbing may be a small step in this journey, but it is a step in the right direction.