Advocacy

Posted in Advocacy

Hajar Abulfazil and Minky Worden

Shirzanan Board Advisor Minky Worden interviews Team Shirzanan Athlete Ambassador Hajar Abulfazil (Afghanistan) at the Human Rights Watch office in New York, NY, on 16 February 2016.

Shirzanan’s advocacy and capacity-building efforts are built on the premise that improved media representation of Muslim females in sport will inspire increased participation and skill development that advance Muslim girls' and women's leadership, independence and equality.

hajar 3

Our first advocacy campaign was carried out by Team Shirzanan. We recruited Muslim athletic pioneers and advocates who have forged sports opportunities for themselves and others. They united from seven nations to promote female sports participation as a fundamental right leading to greater independence and gender equality.

Team Shirzanan Athlete Ambassadors include:

  • Saudi Arabian mountain climber - Raha Moharrak, the first Saudi woman to summit Mount Everest but for whom riding a bicycle was not allowed until 2013; she learned how to ride at age 29 for our #RideForRights;
  • Pakistani Olympic swimmer - Kiran Khan, a pioneer in the pool since the age of 10; she cut her hair and pretended to be a boy for 4 years in order to train in the public pools; 
  • Iranian snowboarder/surfer - Mona Seraji, known as the ambassador of snowboarding in Iran who earned coaching credentials in order to train the next generation;  
  • Afghan football player/coach - Hajar Abulfazil, a member of the Afghan women's national team and a medical student who hopes to build a female-only sports complex and hospital;
  • Jordanian cyclist - Amani Ammoura, a member of the Global Biking Initiative that cycles for charity and a proponent of bicycles for commuting purposes;
  • Egyptian cyclist - Rehab Shawky, also a member of the Global Biking Initiative who seeks to educate rural communities on the value of girls in sport;
  • Pakistani-American Olympic weightlifter - Kulsoom Abdullah, who led the International Weightlifting Federation to modify uniform rules to allow Muslim women to lift with covered arms and legs in adherence to their faith;
  • Iranian-American Traditional karate expert - Soolmaz Abooali, an eleven-time champion and refugee-scholar-athlete using sport to teach conflict resolution; and
  • Muslim-American basketball player - Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir, a Massachusetts high school scoring champion, first NCAA hijabi player currently benched from playing internationally by the FIBA ban on headgear that includes hijab. 

The Muslim athletes convened in Iowa to join a group of childhood friends, including a Shirzanan co-founder, who originated the idea to mark their milestone 50th birthdays with a physically challenging and socially meaningful endeavor.

The advocacy campaign featured three components:

  • a social media #RideForRights awareness campaign; 
  • a cross-cultural, multi-national “Sports, Media and Equality” panel discussion at Drake University; and
  • the 7-day, 462-mile bicycle ride (known as RAGBRAI) across the state of Iowa in July 2015.

Visit Our Media Coverage section for articles and stories, including recent op-eds by our Athlete Ambassadors published by The New York Times, CNN and TIME.

VIDEO: Muslim 'female heroes' bicycle across Iowa to inspire women around the world from Religion News Service by Sally Morrow on 24 July 2015.

VIDEO: How An Iowa Bike Ride is Promoting Rights For World's Muslim Women described by Raha Moharrak to The Huffington Post on 23 July 2015. 

VIDEO: Sports, Media and Equality panel discussion teaser

Our outreach has included:

  • Sporting Chance Forum on Mega-Sports Events and Human Rights in Washington, D.C.
  • The White House United #StateOfWomen Summit
  • The Julie Foudy Sports Leadership Academy
  • Women Deliver's Girl Power in Play Summit
  • United Nations Youth Forum
  • Muhammad Ali Center's Athletes and Social Change Forum
  • U.S. Department of State - International Visitor Leadership Program
  • The New York Times
  • Human Rights Watch
  • Meredith Corporation
  • She's the First Summit
  • and social media campaigns such as Peace and Sport #WhiteCards, #KlickItOut and #Watch4Women by Human Rights Watch. 

Co-Founder Solmaz Sharif joined Board Advisor Minky Worden in calling for the Federation Internationale de Volleyball (FIVB) to deny Iran the right to host stadium matches from which women and girls are barred from attending. VIDEO: Stop Sidelining Women in Iran

Current projects and recent events (see our Latest News):

  • October 2016 - Sports reporting workshop training female journalists to report on female athletes in Amman, Jordan, to coincide with the historic FIFA U17 WWC. Produced by Thomson Reuters Foundation former director of journalism and media training Jo Weir. 

  • October 2016 - Sporting Chance Forum on Mega-Sports Events and Human Rights high-level, invitation-only event hosted by U.S. Department of State, Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs and Institute for Human Rights and Business: Minky Worden, Shirzanan Board Advisor was member of steering committee, key panelist and rapporteur; Athlete Ambassadors Raha Moharrak and Bilqis Abdul-Qaddir were invited as panelists and Co-Founder Mara Gubuan attended.

    Shirzanan succeeded in forming a coalition of lawyers, athlete-advocates and institutional leaders of sports federations, human rights organizations, corporations and unions to support our challenge of the FIBA headgear ban that has prevented Muslim basketball players such as Bilqis from competing internationally. 

Upcoming projects:

  • Journalism training for female journalists covering female athletes to coincide with major sporting events;
  • Media training for Muslim female athletes;
  • Mini-documentary film series about Team Shirzanan Athlete Ambassadors and other Muslim females in sport;
  • English and Arabic downloadable film versions of the Sports, Media and Equality panel discussion;
  • Multi-national, cross-cultural sports exchanges including with The Julie Foudy Sports Leadership Academy in 2017; and
  • Digital storytelling and information communications technology (ICT) training to equip youth with skills to develop as citizen journalists and to advocate for their cultural, social, economic, political and gender equity.

The following gallery features People and Places with whom Shirzanan Co-Founders Solmaz Sharif and Mara Gubuan, Shirzanan Board Advisors, and Team Shirzanan Ambassadors have shared our mission.

NYT Editorial Board

NYT Editorial Board

Meredith Corporation

Meredith Corporation

UN Youth Delegate Hajar Abulfazil

UN Youth Delegate Hajar Abulfazil

UN Winter Youth Assembly

UN Winter Youth Assembly

The New York Times

The New York Times

Ravi Karkara UN Women

Ravi Karkara UN Women

Shahed Amanullah

Shahed Amanullah

Billie Jean King

Billie Jean King

Beatrice Frey UN Women

Beatrice Frey UN Women

Women Deliver Power in Play Summit

Women Deliver Power in Play Summit

Velorosa Team on RAGBRAI Ride

Velorosa Team on RAGBRAI Ride

Shannon Galpin Minky Worden Board Advisors

Shannon Galpin Minky Worden Board Advisors

Human Rights Watch Discussion

Human Rights Watch Discussion

United State of Women Shirzanan Co Founders

United State of Women Shirzanan Co Founders

United State of Women Solmaz Sharif

United State of Women Solmaz Sharif

United State of Women Team Shirzanan Amtassadors

United State of Women Team Shirzanan Amtassadors

United State of Women Mara Gubuan

United State of Women Mara Gubuan

Donna de Varona

Donna de Varona

Michelle Kwan

Michelle Kwan

Meredith Walker Amy Poehlers Smart Girls

Meredith Walker Amy Poehlers Smart Girls

United Nations Youth Forum

United Nations Youth Forum

Minky Worden Amber Fares Raha Moharrak

Minky Worden Amber Fares Raha Moharrak

Hajar Abulfazil and Minky Worden

Hajar Abulfazil and Minky Worden

US Dept of State - Intl Visitor Leadship Program

US Dept of State - Intl Visitor Leadship Program

Ragbrai Director TJ

Ragbrai Director TJ

Jamia Wilson

Jamia Wilson

MuslimGirlFounder Amani Khatahtbeh

MuslimGirlFounder Amani Khatahtbeh

Heather Arnet Ms. Foundation

Heather Arnet Ms. Foundation

Sarah Murray UN and IOC

Sarah Murray UN and IOC

Raha Moharrak Minky Worden IOC

Raha Moharrak Minky Worden IOC

kim hopkins nancy gordon meredith corpn

kim hopkins nancy gordon meredith corpn

Farah Pandith US Dept of State

Farah Pandith US Dept of State

Gloria Steinem

Gloria Steinem

His Excellency Antonio de Aguiar Patriota-

His Excellency Antonio de Aguiar Patriota-

Iowa State Legislature

Iowa State Legislature

Laura Gentile espnW

Laura Gentile espnW

Maria Bobenrieth Women Win

Maria Bobenrieth Women Win

Mayor Andeweg and Susan Bunz

Mayor Andeweg and Susan Bunz

Mayor Proclamation Team Shirzanan Day

Mayor Proclamation Team Shirzanan Day

Donya Nasser Hajar Abulfazil United Nations

Donya Nasser Hajar Abulfazil United Nations

Soraya Chemaly

Soraya Chemaly

Etelle Higonnet

Etelle Higonnet

Roozbeh Mirebrahimi

Roozbeh Mirebrahimi

Shes the First Summit

Shes the First Summit

Kulsoom Abdullah oped

Kulsoom Abdullah oped

streetfootballworld America Cares NYCFC

streetfootballworld America Cares NYCFC

Martina Navratilova

Martina Navratilova

Hudson Taylor Mary Harvey Nikki Dryden

Hudson Taylor Mary Harvey Nikki Dryden

Billie Jean King and Solmaz

Billie Jean King and Solmaz

Ibtihaj Muhammad

Ibtihaj Muhammad

Laila Ali

Laila Ali

Ahmed Khalayle - Jordan TV

Ahmed Khalayle - Jordan TV

Honey Thaljieh - FIFA

Honey Thaljieh - FIFA

Geena Davis

Geena Davis

Rana Husseini and Jo Weir

Rana Husseini and Jo Weir

Moya Dodd and Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir

Moya Dodd and Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir

Mary Robinson

Mary Robinson

Sporting Chance Forum

Sporting Chance Forum

Julie Foudy

Julie Foudy

Dima Alardah

Dima Alardah

Sarah Murray

Sarah Murray

Shannon Galpin

Shannon Galpin

Athlete Ally Coalition

Athlete Ally Coalition

fusion network

fusion network

Womens March on Washington

Womens March on Washington

Greg Louganis

Greg Louganis

Dr. Antoine Womens Sports Fdn

Dr. Antoine Womens Sports Fdn

Minky and Raha WITW

Minky and Raha WITW

NY SportPeace RoundTable

NY SportPeace RoundTable


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