International Women's Day: This is Laiqa's Story

In a classroom in Kabul, a girl raises her hand. The teacher points to her and says her name, and Laiqa* comes to the front of the class. At the board, she spells out the word her teacher has asked of her, checking halfway through to make sure she’s on the right track. Her teacher smiles and nods her head. Her classmates clap for her and Laiqa returns to her seat, just that little bit prouder and more confident than before. 

Laiqa in the classroom in Kabul

This is a kind of dream-come-true for Laiqa, an 11 year old from Afghanistan. In fact, it was her biggest wish to go to school and wear a school uniform, but her family was unable to send her. Like thousands of families in Afghanistan, they were too poor, so Laiqa stayed home all day with her mom to do house chores. When she and her mom left the house to do daily shopping and errands, Laiqa watched school girls in their black and white uniforms, standing with each other as they were going to school or coming home. She desperately wanted to be one of those girls.

“I really wanted to go to school and I was always asking my mother, why am I not going to school? She always answered that they won't accept me at the school, but my brothers went to school.”

Laiqa’s situation is not uncommon in Afghanistan, where the majority of children who are out of school are girls. Her mother explained:

“As we are not well off, we send our sons to school, but it was difficult to send my daughter too, as people in our society believe that we should invest in our sons’ lives, but not our daughters. So we chose the sons to do their education. When I heard about Skateistan I decided to send my daughter as it was free and would also provide her transportation.”

Her mother’s education was interrupted by conflict in the country. Laiqa explained:

“In the nights that we don't have electricity, my mother tells us her life story and special things that happened in her life in the past. She told us that she went to school until 4th grade, but then conflict broke out and the schools were destroyed. She got married, so she was not able to continue her education.”

 Her mom reflects on this:

“I got married and I stopped dreaming about school, but I realized that education is important for both girls and boys. If I was educated at least I would be able to help my children in their lessons.”
Laiqa with her skateboard

Almost one year ago, Laiqa started attending Skateistan’s Back-to-School program. She had heard from her cousin that there was a place in Kabul where children who are out of school could attend, cover grades 1-3 in a year and subsequently be enrolled in public school. Laiqa comes to Skateistan every weekday. We pick her up from home, transport her safely to Skateistan where she attends three hours of lessons as well as having a chance to skateboard. She has a hot, healthy meal at Skateistan and then we drop her safely home.


“My parents were very happy that it is free and I can go to school. Skateistan was like a dream for me."


Her first day was scary as she didn’t know what to expect from Skateistan.


"It was Thursday that I came to Skateistan. I was feeling nervous; I wanted to start my education, but I was afraid of the teachers. I thought they would punish me when I cannot learn the lessons easily, but then I realized that my teacher here is kind. I can learn without fear."


Laiqa has now been attending the program for 10 months and she’s almost ready to graduate. She has been learning the Dari alphabet, spelling and simple arithmetic. We also make time to teach about other important lessons, such as health and hygiene. She has covered grades 1 and 2 and almost all of grade 3, so she’ll be ready to join the 4th grade in about one month’s time.


“I am happy that finally I am going to formal school, I will be a formal student and I will wear school uniform. That makes me proud, because I will be shown as a school girl.”

Her mother is so pleased with her progress and has high hopes for her daughter.

“I want Laiqa to be serious in her lessons and I want her to become a doctor after she finishes her education. Doctors are really good for our society.”

We asked Laiqa if she’ll still come to Skateistan once she has graduated from the Back-to-School program.

“First of all, I will come to Skateistan once a week to participate in the Skate and Create program because I love skateboarding. I will do my best to get high scores at school and learn a lot and I will respect my teacher. I like to learn and teach others to help them learn too."

Skateistan has given Laiqa the chance at an entirely different future. We believe that educated girls are empowered girls and we strive for 50% girls’ participation in all our programs. At Skateistan, girls know they are safe. We provide a female friendly environment, with girls only sessions, female educators and role models and education which promotes equality. If you’d like to support more girls like Laiqa this International Women’s Day, please consider making a donation to Skateistan.

*Laiqa's name has been changed in accordance with Skateistan's Child Protection Policy.