Welcome to my website, a unique blog exploring how soccer (or football if you’re outside of the U.S.) and other sports empower women, unite people from different backgrounds, and promote gender equality. Soccer gave me the freedom and courage to come out of my comfort zone. It also helped me develop a voice to fight for women’s rights. Soccer provided me with the opportunity to an education and connected me with countless other women around the world who are fighting for gender equality and the advancement of women's athletics. My goal is to inspire and empower all women by promoting a healthy lifestyle. Please read my blog posts about women sports pioneers from around the world. Enjoy!
Strong is Beautiful
Welcome to my website, a unique blog exploring how soccer/football and other sports empower women, unite people from different backgrounds, and promote gender equality. Football gave me the freedom and courage to come out of my comfort zone and a voice to fight for women’s rights. Soccer also provided me with the opportunity for an education and connected me to other women around the world who are fighting for gender equality and the advancement of women's athletics. My goal is to inspire and empower all women by promoting a healthy lifestyle. Please read my blogs about women sports pioneers from around the world. Enjoy!
Shamila Kohestani is a 2006 ESPN Arthur Ashe Award winner, a graduate of Drew University, and a world-renowned public speaker. Shamila grew up in Afghanistan under Taliban rule where she was deprived of an education, confined to her home, and forced to endure physical abuse. While Shamila and her family knew there were severe consequences for families who taught their daughters how to read and write, their dedication and belief in the importance of education overcame their fears, and Shamila studied in secret.
Shortly after the Taliban were removed from power, Shamila began to play football (soccer), a sport that is primarily male-dominated and socially taboo for women participants in Afghanistan. Shamila, with the help of the Afghan Football Federation, was able to continue playing football and worked to establish the first Afghan Women’s National Football Team in 2007. Shamila was proudly named Captain of the Women’s National Football Team.
In recognition of these accomplishments, Shamila received the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the 2006 ESPY Awards ceremony. Additionally, she received the Giant Steps Award for breaking barriers for women football players. Shamila’s story has been published by the New York Times, ESPN, and USA Today.
Shamila finished one year of high school at Blair Academy in 2008. She later graduated from Drew University in 2012 with a degree in Political Science where she was named to the Dean’s List. Shamila has extensive experience speaking at schools, universities, and sporting events where she shares her story of playing football in Afghanistan and promoting gender equality.
As a sports advocate, Shamila has spoken about the importance of soccer/football and how it empowered her and her team to tear down societal norms and make history in a war-torn country. Shamila has been vocal about women’s issues around the globe and the life-changing opportunities playing sports can provide. She has spoken at high schools, universities, conferences, and fundraising events in the United States. Shamila’s speeches are focused on how soccer and other sports can be utilized to promote gender equality and build confidence in young women around the world.
July 2013 - Girls’ Soccer in the Taliban’s Wake
February 2012 – TEDxUNC - How Sports Impact the Lives of Women
December 2012 – TEDxWomen – Empowering Women Through Soccer
October 2012 – ESPNW – Imagine the life of Shamila Kohestani
April 2008 – Giant Steps Award – Barrier Breaker
June 2006 – The Arthur Ashe Courage Award
For public speaking engagements, please contact:
ARTICLES AND NEWS
“Afghanistan: Prosecute Abuse of Women football Players,” Human Rights Watch, February 2019. https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/02/07/afghanistan-prosecute-abuse-women-football-players
“Standing up against abuse with Afghanistan Women’s National Football Team”, FreeWomenWriter, January 2019. https://www.freewomenwriters.org/2019/01/07/abuse-afghanistan-womens-national-football-team/
“FIFA Investigate Afghanistan Football Federation,” CNN International, December 2018. https://www.cnn.com/2018/11/30/football/afghanistan-womens-football-abuse-allegations-hummel-spt-intl/index.html
“I am pretty sure sexual abuse is happening at the global level”, The telegraph.co.uk, December 2018 https://www.freewomenwriters.org/2017/02/20/empowering-young-women-sports-afghanistan-around-world/?fbclid=IwAR3h0873kgBYAucx1vZE6p9LpwtQM1bjsFq5UyY-Mem9n-DfKXNU96oqiks
“Empowering Young Women through Sports in Afghanistan and around the World,” Free Women Writer, February 2017.
“Afghan notebook: Sporting chance,” BBC, June 2014 https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-27537171
“End Zone: Soccer Star Leaves Taliban Behind,” New York Daily News, October 2008 http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/college/drew-university-soccer-star-shamila-kohestani-leaves-taliban-behind-article-1.302657
“Soccer as an Escape to Hope for Afghan Teenager,” New York Times, February 2008. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/11/sports/soccer/11blair.html
“Afghanistan: Once Whipped by Taliban, Girl Makes Mark as Soccer Star,” Radio Free Europe, September 2007. https://www.rferl.org/a/1078658.html
“In U.S., Afghan Women Find Freedom to Study,” USA Today, December 2010. https://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/education/2010-12-14-afghanwomen14_ST_N.htm
“The Century Council 20 People to Watch,” The Century Council, October 2011. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LoqoBcWm4S4&t=1s