What We Do

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there will never be a solution to conflict without the free and full participation of women as equals in society

Conflicts can have a devastating impact on societies, causing suffering on a widespread scale. Women and girls are often disproportionately affected, and the particular ways in which their rights are restricted are often overlooked. Their invisibility from society is as much of a symptom of discrimination as it is a cause.

We believe that there will never be a solution to the conflict without the free and full participation of women as equals in society.

Free to Run works to support women and girls in areas of conflict through adventure sports to build their physical, emotional, and social well being; developing them into community leaders so they can bring people together across cultural, ethnic and religious lines. We provide them with the tools to succeed and support them to transfer those successes to their everyday lives.

Finding ways for women and girls to safely and boldly engage in outdoor activity allows them to regain public space and changes views about the roles that women can, and should, play in society.

 

We focus on developing skills and competencies, and shifting the attitudes of participants and their communities.

At Free to Run, we are not singularly focused on measuring the athletic performance of our participants. The success of our programs is linked to the skills and competencies that participants develop, as well as the shift in attitudes achieved within themselves and in the surrounding communities. Our goal is to increase the opportunities for women and girls to engage in public life, using sport as a tool of empowerment and education.

 
 

Our Programs

Adventure Sports / Learning & Leadership / Volunteering

Free to Run programs include a combination of adventure sports, life skills development, and community service. All participants run and hike with their team 3-5 times per week, depending on the season. They also volunteer monthly in their community and actively contribute to local projects which further strengthens community support.

Central to the learning and leadership aspect of our program is the Life Skills through Sports (LSS) curriculum. Designed in collaboration with a UNICEF Education Specialist, the LSS curriculum helps participants to learn communication skills, conflict negotiation, leadership and service learning.

Three times per year we host week-long leadership events. We take participants outside of their usual environments and create opportunities for them to try new sports like camping, kayaking, cycling, ice skating, and skiing. We bring together groups from different cultures, offering them the space, time and support to share their experiences, learn from each other, and re-examine their preconceptions.

Participants who successfully complete a year or more of Free to Run programs are encouraged to lead LSS and sports sessions in their local schools, creating a positive ripple effect in their own communities.

 
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Progress

Since Free to Run was established in 2014, the organization has been a positive driver of change in the lives of 1,150 women and girls living in regions of conflict. Free to Run has programs operating today in four different provinces of Afghanistan.

In 2018 we launched a brand new program in Iraq that’s currently being expanded. We have previously delivered successful past projects in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan.

 

Afghanistan 2018

500 Participants
674 Sports sessions
281 LSS sessions
22 Volunteer sessions
4 Mixed gender races
2 Inter Regional Sports Weeks
26 Nutrition lessons
25 School & community outreach events
12 Communities reached across 4 provinces


Iraq 2018 (first 5-months)

28 Participants
47 Sports sessions
13 Education sessions
2 Volunteer sessions
3 Community outreach events
3 Mixed gender races
2 Communities served

 
People still say why are you doing this, why are you going to play sports? Slowly, we will change their minds, but I don’t care what they say. I hope I can show other girls in my province what we are capable of, and prove to the men what an Afghan woman can do.
— Wazira, age 22, Free to Run Afghanistan
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Partners

Public and private schools in Afghanistan

We organize regular sports activities and our LSS curriculum for students attending public and private schools in Afghanistan. For safety reasons, we don’t publish the names or locations of these schools.

Government Ministries / Departments

Kabul Municipality
Afghan Ministry of Women Affairs
Afghan Ministry of Education
Afghan Ministry of Economy- NGO Directorate


Local and International NGOs

Physiotherapy and Rehabilitation Support for Afghanistan (PARSA)
International Psychosocial Organization (IPSO-)
Women Empowerment Organization
Bamyan Ski Club
IKNN

Private Companies

RacingThePlanet
Untamed Borders

Races

The Marathon of Afghanistan
Erbil Marathon
The United Airlines NYC Half
The TCS New York City Marathon
Tor des Géants