Help us support our female athletes during this time of need.
At Free to Run, we've been working since 2014 to support women and girls in areas of conflict through adventure sports to build their physical, emotional, and social well-being. We are facing unprecedented times, where many of the hard-earned gains that have been made for Afghan and Iraqi women and girls are at risk.
Women and girls are disproportionately affected by humanitarian crises and war, which exacerbate underlying inequalities. In Afghanistan and Iraq, the impact of COVID-19 is felt acutely by the communities we support. The closure of schools, while a necessary move to prevent the escalation of the health crisis, disrupts the social support networks for many of our participants, and also deepens the burden of unpaid care work on women and girls in general, who absorb the additional load of childcare. COVID-19-related movement restrictions further isolate our participants from accessing public spaces – something we have long recognized as essential for full participation in society – and run the risk of reinforcing patriarchal cultural norms that the place of women and girls is in the home.
Additionally, global experience indicates that domestic abuse and gender-based violence increase in a pandemic, as does the risk of child labour and early marriage in situations of economic distress. This is felt ten-fold in areas of conflict. According to OXFAM, 97% of women recently interviewed by the organization reported that gender-based violence had already increased since the COVID-19 outbreak (OXFAM, 2020).
Free to Run programmes play a significant role in the social and emotional well-being of participants. In 2019 across both Afghanistan and Iraq, social well-being scores rose by 21% while emotional well-being scores rose by 11%. Almost all of our participants - 97% - reported having a more positive outlook on their future after one year in our programme.
During the current pandemic and lockdown situation in Afghanistan and Iraq, our programmes have not stopped – our support for the Free to Run women and girls is more important than ever.
To respect current health protocols in place and in following best practices, we have shifted to virtual programmes to continue our lifeline of support. Our Programme Officers and Coaches are calling participants to share at home workouts that they and their families can do. Free to Run staff are also doing mental health and family health check-ins. These check ins reinforce self coping mechanisms participants learnt in our programme while opening up dialogue for any other issues participants are experiencing in their lives. In many cases, our Programme Officers and Coaches are the only non-family connections these young women have to provide a sense of support and normalcy.
As ever, we are not just about sports. But we need your help. At a time when we are more disconnected than ever, a donation will help to maintain these essential lifelines with our Afghan and Iraqi female athletes.
Better yet, your donation will help make us eligible for a matching grant from GoFundMeCharity as part of their #GivingTuesdayNow campaign!
Thank you for your support. Stay safe and healthy through these difficult times, and we will keep fighting to help our participants do the same!