An important part of any journey is celebration. Every friday, here at Redefining Female, I want us to do just that, by celebrating Fabulous Females–some that are living and famous, some that have passed yet made their mark, and others that I have been privileged to have a part of my life.
As it is the week of the Olympics and they are saying that this is “The Year of the Women,” to kick off our first Fabulous Female Friday, I thought how better to start than with the story of a woman competing in this year’s Olympics.
At twenty-two years of age, and the third women ever sent to the Olympics by her country of Afghanistan, sprinter Tahmina Kohistani is competing today in the 100 meters. What stands Tahmina apart is both what she has overcome to get to the Olympics, as well as who she is competing for.
Like all Olympians, Tahmina would practice daily. Unlike many Olympians, however, many times, she practiced to the sound of hundreds of jeering and abusive men. In Afghanistan, they don’t believe in women playing sports, and so groups of men would show up to the track in Kabul to vehemently discourage her from continuing on.
One day, according to The Telegraph, after Kohistani’s coach approached the crowd, a brawl broke out. It was enough to make her decide to quit, but not for long. She told the Telegraph:
“Whenever you want to do something you are faced with some challenges and some problems…There is always one person who has started the way. I thought if I stopped maybe whenever the other girls come they would also get stopped. I should face up to this problem and change something in my society.”
Tahmina knows this is not just a fight for herself, but also a fight for all of the women in Afghanistan. She told Today:
“If I got a medal, I think I will start a new way for the girls (and) women of Afghanistan,’’ she said. “They will believe themselves that they can do everything they want.’’
For all of the women in her country, Tahmina is competing to redefine what female looks like, and she is doing it in her own way. She will compete today, wearing the traditional head scarf (hijab), along with her uniform. She is both honoring her faith and her tradition, while at the same time refusing to succumb to the belief that women cannot be athletes.
For these reasons and more, Tahmina Kohistani is today’s Fabulous Female.
To see her interviewed on the Today Show, click here.