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Skateboarding won't 'save' Afghan girls

17 107 873

Last month the film Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (if you're a girl) won the Oscar for best documentary (short subject). The film focuses on Afghan girls who learn to skate through a programme run by Berlin-based NGO Skateistan which purports to "give children the opportunity to become leaders for a better world" by combining "skateboarding with creative, arts-based education".

At the Oscars ceremony, director Carol Dysinger described the film as a "love letter to the brave girls of that country" and praised the work of Skateistan, which, in her words, teaches "girls courage, to raise your hand, to say I am here and I have something to say".

With this win, Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone joins a long list of Western-produced, critically acclaimed films, books, articles, photos, etc about Afghan women and girls in distress who - often with the helpful hand of a Westerner - find their way to empowerment.

In recent years, we saw Barry Levinson's Rock the Kasbah (2015), in which a young Afghan singer (played by Palestinian actress Leem Lubany) is "discovered" by a struggling American music manager (Bill Murry). There was also Angelina Jolie's animated feature Breadwinner (2017) about a girl who disguises herself as a boy to support her struggling family during the Taliban rule in Kabul.

The film is based on the award-winning trilogy of books The Breadwinner (2001-03) by Canadian author Deborah Ellis who got inspired to write them after interviewing Afghan refugees in a camp in Pakistan in the late 1990s.

Articles about "Afghan girl empowerment" also regularly make it to Western media outlets. There have been a myriad of stories about "Afghanistan's first female graffiti artist who is risking it all for her murals"; about Afghan girls learning to play Coldplay and Bob Marley songs on a guitar; about an all-female orchestra........

© Al Jazeera