In many Islamic countries around the globe like Afghanistan, it is forbidden for women to ride bicycles or drive cars. In case someone does it anyway, she faces hard punishments, as it is regarded just below the severeness of a so called moral crime that often leads to several years in prison. The American Shannon Galpin thus founded the non-profit organization Mountain 2 Mountain in 2006, fighting for equal rights for women everywhere.
Shannon has always been an avid cyclist, her motivation not just fuelled by the love for the sport, but also by her social conscience. After several years of social work in Afghanistan and other war-shaken regions, in 2009, she was the first woman to ever ride a mountain bike through Afghanistan. Again, it was not only for the sport’s sake, but also to make a stand against the oppression of women. Since then, much has changed.
Shannon strongly believes in the transformative power of bicycles, especially for women facing oppression. It’s more than just a symbol for equal rights, it can really be the catalyst, bringing about social change. One of many examples can be found in education. In countless countries, women and girls can’t go to school, because it is too far, too dangerous or both to go there. A bicycle could make a huge impact here.
In her home in Colorado, Shannon collects bicycles and bicycle parts over the year to bring with her when she visits Afghanistan. There, she uses them to encourage girls and women to set themselves free from the oppression they face every single day. It’s easier said than done though: Women on bikes are often insulted, spat upon or even threatened on the street. It needs a whole lot of courage to break these social chains.
One of the many signs that change is happening since Shannon’s first projects in Afghanistan is the founding of an Afghan women’s cycling national team with which she works together very closely. She uses donations and sponsors from around the world to ensure, that the equipment is one less thing to worry about for these women. After having participated in a few international tournaments already, the big goal for the women in the national team are the Olympic Games. It would surely be a sign for women facing oppression all around the globe.
If you want to get more information about Mountain 2 Mountain, you can do this via the official website www.mountain2mountain.org or watch Shannon’s TED Talk from the year 2013: