Women's cycling team challenged several social norms and taboos in Afghanistan

The bicycle creates struggles in a culture where the conceived role of women is motherhood and housekeeping, and where roads and streets are dominated by men.


While in Saudi Arabia there has been a ban on women to drive cars, and when in 2018 this bas was lifted, the women activists who had by direct action challenged the patriarchal authorities of the country by driving cars,  had been thrown into jail and tortured [Aziza, 2018], the situation of women cyclists in some countries  is not only a matter of patriarchy and deprivation of human rights but also of attacks on grassroots or popular environmentalism. This is how the conflict in Afghanistan a few years ago can be interpreted, as described below by Sandra Jimena La Rota, herself a militant cyclist. Cyclitst rights have everywhere difficult to implement (hence the movement called "critical mass" in many cities around the world. They are even more elusive for women under strongly patriarchal systems of domination. 

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Basic Data
NameWomen's cycling team challenged several social norms and taboos in Afghanistan
Accuracy of LocationMEDIUM regional level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Infrastructure and Built Environment
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Urban development conflicts
Specific CommoditiesLand
Ecosystem Services
Project Details and Actors
Project Details Women are in general not seen on bycicles in Afghanistan. A women's cyclist team in Afghanistan broke taboos about women in bicycles, by 2016 it had won a world reputation for women's liberation and also for the use of bycicles in the streets and the roads.
Type of PopulationSemi-urban
Start Date01/01/2011
Relevant government actorsAfghan National Cycling Federation
Environmental justice organisations and other supportershttps://mountain2mountain.wordpress.com/


Women for women: http://www.womenforwomen.org.uk/what-we-do/countries/afghanistan?utm_source=google-grants&utm_medium=cpc&utm_term=afghanistan&utm_campaign=countries&gclid=CjwKEAjw1PPJBRDq9dGHivbXmhcSJAATZd_BlWi2zcsKbEe3XKJ50bgFqzeGtXDgT--VmN-hQoLuYBoCbtfw_wcB
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)LOW (some local organising)
When did the mobilization beginLATENT (no visible resistance)
Groups MobilizingNeighbours/citizens/communities
Forms of MobilizationArtistic and creative actions (eg guerilla theatre, murals)
Development of a network/collective action
Participation in sports competition
Socio-economic ImpactsPotential: Loss of livelihood, Land dispossession, Displacement, Violations of human rights, Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors
OtherThese are impacts of forbidding women cyclism
Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseInstitutional changes
Fostering a culture of peace
Development of AlternativesMembers of the Italian parliament nominated the 12 members of the Afghanistan`s national women`s cycling team for a Nobel peace prize. Refering to the team as “ a human representation of the bike and its power to bring about social justice”. The nomination recognizes the bravery, courage and ability of these women to take back the streets and their rights on bikes” says Shannon Galpin, producer of the movie “Afghan cycles” [4], and the founder of the non-profit Mountain2Mountain which supports the team.
Do you consider this as a success?Not Sure
Why? Explain briefly.On the one side, these women challenged the current social norms in the society, opening spaces that didn’t belong to them before. On the other side, this is just the starting point, there is a long way still to achieve the revindication of the women in bicycle in many countries.
Sources and Materials

[4] Farrington, K. (May de 2016). Afghanistan: Rights on bikes. New Internationalist, pág. 9.

[6] Furness, Z. (2010). One less car.

[1] Let's build on momentum to reach more women so we can stop talking about it. (2013)
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[2] Cabezas, D. (2016). La revolución silenciosa. La bicicleta como motor del cambio en e siglo XXI. Barcelona: UOC.
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[7] Afghanistan’s Two-Wheeled Revolution: First Women’s Bike Racing Team Hits the Road
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[9] Afghan Cycles: The film
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[11]Women and Girls, 9 Nov 2016. Alexandra Bradford. Members of the Afghan national women’s cycling team have kept on riding through misogyny, harassment and physical violence. Now a corruption scandal threatens to knock the trailblazers off their bikes for good.
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Media Links

[3] Menzies, S. (March de 31 de 2015). TEDx. Obtenido de Director Sarah Menzies Talking about Afghan cycles
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[10] Video: Meet the Afghan women taking their lives in their hands for their right to cycle
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[5] Interview: Shannon Galpin: pedalling a revolution in Afghanistan
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Sarah AZIZA. Saudi Arabia's brutal treatment of female reformers ... - Washington Post. Dec 10, 2018.
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Other Documents

Afghan cycling team power http://minstagra.com/tag/afghancycles
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Afghan Cycling team riding http://www.bicycling.com/culture/advocacy/shannon-galpin-not-it-glory
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Meta Information
ContributorSandra Jimena La Rota, UAB.
Last update13/01/2019