Afghan women learn to cycle as community fund gets £50k funding boost

Women from the community are getting on their bike ahead of the UCI Cycling World Championships.

Women in the Afghan community are learning to cycle as Glasgow gears up to host one of the world’s biggest sporting events.

Charities and groups have received funding as part of the build-up to Glasgow’s UCI Cycling World Championships taking place next month – and it’s hoped it will leave a tangible legacy.

With just four weeks until the world’s top cyclists arrive in the city, the Go Cycle Glasgow fund – created by Glasgow Life and Glasgow City Council to inspire more local people to take up cycling as part of the build-up to the championships – will receive an additional £50,000.

The money from Buchanan Galleries’ owner Landsec, will help organisations such as the Women’s Empowerment Programme from Glasgow Afghan United (GAU) provide opportunities for local women – many of whom are refugees and asylum seekers.

The group has been instrumental in changing the lives of local women in the north of the city by offering a safe space to learn and connect, build their confidence and overcome barriers at their own pace.

So far 29 organisations have benefited from £160,000 of funding, with GAU Women’s Empowerment Project a shining example of the impact relatively modest amounts of money can make, ensuring more people, regardless of background, age or ability enjoy the benefits and power of the bike.

Yusra Naderi had never cycled before arriving in Glasgow, and has just completed six weeks of cycling lessons.

She said: “I am from Afghanistan, so mostly ladies are not even allowed to study. The feeling was amazing. Like, ‘I’m gonna learn how to ride a bike’, so it was quite amazing for me.”

Her friend and fellow member of GAU, Bahar Mirzapur from Iran, added: “Very nice class for my exercise, and [meeting] new friends. Sometimes my friends are joking, sometimes I’m shaky… My teacher [gets] angry, because I’m not listening or looking!”

Kate Drummond, from the Women’s Empowerment Programme, said: “What I notice is – as soon as somebody cycles – just the sheer joy and liberation. In Afghanistan they wouldn’t have been allowed to cycle, it’s like a metaphor for freedom.

“Another thing that the fund has helped us do is buy some bikes. The women can come and borrow them, they can take bikes out and go with their friends and keep cycling.”

And while the cycling training course may be over for these women, it’s not the end of their time in the saddle.

Billy Garrett, director of events at Glasgow Life, said: “It’s never just about the circus coming to town and then moving on. It’s always been about how can we ensure Glasgow citizens, community organisations, people genuinely benefit – that we leave a lasting legacy.

“We are absolutely delighted and really grateful that Buchanan Galleries have come on board to allow us to extend this scheme now beyond the cycling, so another group of community organisations will benefit in the way that GAU has.”

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