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First-ever Women’s Fitness Club opens in Kabul, aims to promote Health and Sports in Afghanistan’s Patriarchal Society

The teenager has been a member of the National Women’s Cyclist Association for more than three years and is currently practicing yoga at the fitness club

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Kabul, October 30, 2016: The first-ever fitness club for women has opened in Kabul with the objective of promoting health and sports among women in Afghanistan’s traditionally patriarchal society.

“It was my life’s ambition to open this club — Blue Moon Fitness Club — and serve women like me and it cost me $20,000,” the club’s owner, Tahmina Mahid Nuristani, told Xinhua news agency on Sunday.

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“Afghanistan is a conservative society, but in defiance of this, I opened the club nearly two months ago, with the hope of contributing to female empowerment here,” Nuristani, 20, said.

In conservative Afghanistan society where people, especially in rural areas, deeply believe in tribal traditions, some of which include prohibiting girls from going to school or working outside home, opening a fitness club for girls is a particularly brave move, especially for a female and took a great deal of courage.

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“My sole aim of opening the club is to support the women’s cause and to encourage them to come out of their houses, go to sports clubs and exercise,” Nuristani asserted.

Although Afghanistan has made tremendous achievements since the collapse of the Taliban regime in late 2001 and Afghan athletes have brought medals home from regional and international tournaments, including from the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the 2012 London Olympics, the percentage of female sports-persons is almost zero, mostly because of traditions and cultural barriers.

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“Men on the roads harass me everyday as I travel to and from the fitness club,” Rukhsar Habibzai, 19, a club member, said. She added that the men even go as far as to throw stones and hurl abusive language at her as she rides her bicycle to the club, just because she is a female.

“Even though these ignorant, sexist men with extreme views are trying to intimidate me from going to the fitness club, I am determined to continue my practice,” Habibzai added.

The teenager has been a member of the National Women’s Cyclist Association for more than three years and is currently practicing yoga at the fitness club.

“With courage and determination, we Afghan women can overcome the harmful traditions and cultural barriers to prove and elevate our existence in society,” she said.

Although women’s social status in Afghanistan has been improving and women are currently engaged in politics, business, arts and other pursuits previously prohibited, many families still do not allow their female members to work outside of home.

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The private fitness club, which opened 45 days ago, is rapidly gaining popularity among female sports enthusiasts and its members are on a constant rise, despite a backlash from traditional male quarters, according to Fakhria Ibrahim, a yoga instructor.

“Since the club opened, 50 women and girls have registered and regularly practice yoga, body building and other exercises, and the number is consistently rising in the face of traditional restrictions,” Ibrahim said. (IANS)

  • Ruchika Kumari

    Good job..this is really going to uplift the women condition in Afghanistan

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About 2M Children in Afghanistan Suffer Acute Malnutrition: UNICEF

But UNICEF is struggling to fund its operation. The agency needs an immediate injection of $7 million, Boulierac said

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FILE - A boy walks inside what is left of a home in Kandahar province, south of Kabul, Afghanistan, March, 3, 2019. The U.N. Children's Fund is appealing for money to treat Afghanistan's malnourished children. VOA

About two million children in Afghanistan are acutely malnourished. Of those, 600,000 face severe acute malnutrition, the most dangerous form of undernutrition in children, said Christophe Boulierac, a spokesman for the U.N. Children’s Fund.

“Any child suffering from severe acute malnutrition is a crisis and needs to be treated to survive,” he said. “We cannot tell you how many children will die, but we can tell you that a child with severe acute malnutrition is 11 times more likely to die than their healthy peers.”

Afghanistan, alongside Yemen and South Sudan, is among the countries with the highest numbers of children under age five suffering from severe acute malnutrition. Severe drought in 2018 has worsened the situation.

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But UNICEF is struggling to fund its operation. The agency needs an immediate injection of $7 million, Boulierac said. Pixabay

Recent nutrition surveys across Afghanistan find 22 out of 34 provinces are above the emergency threshold of acute malnutrition. Last year, UNICEF provided life-saving assistance to nearly half of the country’s most nutritionally deprived children. It is aiming to reach 60 percent, or 375,000, of those children this year. But UNICEF is struggling to fund its operation. The agency needs an immediate injection of $7 million, Boulierac said.

“We are the sole provider of this treatment against severe acutely malnourished children,” he told VOA. “We need urgent funding in three weeks, otherwise, we will not send the necessary ready-to-use therapeutic food treatment to the 1,300 health facilities that are waiting for that.”

ALSO READ: Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh Face Serious Water Shortage

This year, UNICEF has provided treatment to more than 73,000 severely malnourished children. Boulierac said plans are in place to immediately scale up the operation to reach more children as soon as more money is available.

He also warned that the nutritional status of Afghanistan’s children is likely to worsen without more secure funding in the pipeline. (VOA)