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Glamour Hero of the Month July 2006
Erin Zammett Ruddy
Glamour Magazine

Making Girls Strong Again

Once terrorized by the Taliban, Afghan girls are learning soccer and self-confidence, thanks to a program formed by an American named Awista Ayub.

Awista Ayub was a young American college grad who dreamed of visiting her parents’ homeland of Afghanistan. But in 2002, after seeing how Afghan women were confined to their homes and subjected to violence under the Taliban, her dream changed. She became determined to empower Afghan girls through sports, which had given her such confidence as a girl growing up in Connecticut. So in early 2004 Ayub, then 23, quit her job as a research chemist to start the Afghan Youth Sports Exchange, which teaches Afghan girls how to start soccer teams in their own communities. Why soccer? “All you need is a ball,” says Ayub. By April 2006, when the program hosted its first clinic, Ayub was amazed at the turnout. “Two hundred and fifty girls showed up,” she says. “Seeing them on the field laughing was the proudest moment of my life.” On July 16, two of the girls will accept the Arthur Ashe Courage Award from ESPN (watch at 9 P.M. ET). Ayub’s program has won praise from U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, who told Glamour: “Awista’s work shows young Afghan women that there is a wider world open to them now that the brutality of the Taliban is a thing of the past.”

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