Women in Sport Foundation

 
Raised: £3,890.00
Goal: £10,000.00
 
 
 

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Margaret Pope

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Body Studio’s founder, Margaret Pope, is starting a charity honouring women in sports,  specifically a group of girls, Kabul female boxers who are  working against all odds in a male dom... more

 
 
 
 
 
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Updated posted by Margaret Pope 13 months ago

Afghan female boxers' UK visa refusal is 'at odds with Olympic legacy'

Row sparked by UK Border Agency's refusal for three Afghan boxers to visit Britain as part of International Women's Day


Alexandra Topping
The Guardian, Friday 8 March 2013 15.54 GMT

Sadaf Rahimi one of the three Afghan boxers refused entry to the UK. Delegates from Women in Sport, who organised the trip, are instead planning to visit the boxers in Afghanistan. Photograph: Musadeq Sadeq/AP
It was meant to be a cross-cultural celebration of International Women's Day, a chance for women who had defied social taboos in their own country to meet their supporters and fans in Britain.

But the UK Border Agency in Delhi refused visas to the Afghan female boxing team on Wednesday evening, sending them back to Afghanistan without the chance to compete against female boxers in the Britain in a move that has been labelled "at odds with the ideals of the Olympic legacy".

Now a delegation from Women in Sport who organised the trip – which was to culminate in several bouts between Afghan and British fighters on Saturday – are instead planning to visit the women in Kabul to train and educate the fighters with skills that could help other budding female sportswomen in the country.

Sadaf Rahimi, Fahima Mohammad and Shabnam Rahman were due to arrive in Britain to mark International Women's Day on Friday.

Foreign Office officials in Kabul had supported the trip and the women had provided letters of identification as well as a letter of support from the Centre of Peace and Unity. But despite the visa applications being reconsidered, they were refused entry for a second time.

It was a "bitterly disappointing" situation, said Margaret Pope, founder of Women in Sport, which raised funds for the women's visit. "We are made to believe that avenues, especially here in the UK, are opening up to people such as Sadaf Rahimi, Fahima Mohammad and Shabnam Rahman, who are trying to pursue their sporting dreams. There has been much talk of the legacy of the Olympics and rights for women in sport, but today, it is not the case for these women."

They were refused entry because they could not show their financial circumstances in Afghanistan and concerns from the high commission that they may not return to Afghanistan after their visit to the UK.

Melanie Brown, a former aid worker who has made a documentary about the young women, said the boxers had already overcome huge hurdles to pursue their chosen sport in their own country only to be thwarted by bureaucracy.

"They have continued boxing, reaching excellence and representing their country internationally. However, in the face of bureaucracy they are powerless. This visa refusal will come as a bitter disappointment to them," she said. "They may as well have a big tickbox saying: 'Are you from Afghanistan? Don't bother.'"

Debbie Mills, who met the three when she was working as a security consultant protecting diplomats in the Middle East, and is part of the team responsible for the UK visit, said by refusing the trip the Border Agency was standing in the way of other young girls in Afghanistan learning from their experience.

"The whole point of the visit was to train the girls and their coach, not just in boxing qualifications but also key life skills such as first aid so that they could return to Afghanistan more qualified and equipped to train other women and encourage development which would potentially lead to financial independence," she said.

A UK Border Agency spokesperson said it did not comment on individual cases: "Every visa application is considered on its individual merits and in line with the immigration rules. It is the responsibility of the applicant to ensure they provide the required evidence to support their application. In exceptional circumstances we will review applications but if the appropriate information is still not provided we are left with no option but to refuse."

 
 
 

Updated posted by Margaret Pope 13 months ago

BITTER DISAPPOINTMENT AS KABUL GIRLS’ BOXING TEAM REFUSED ENTRY TO UK ON EVE OF INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY

The UK Border Agency in Delhi have, for the second time, refused entry visas into the UK for Sadaf Rahem, Fahima Mohammad, Shabnam Rahman. The three boxers were on their way to the UK to train and fight as guests of the foundation Women in Sport to mark International Women’s Day on March 8th.

On the eve of International Women’s Day, the decision has been lambasted as ‘utterly ridiculous’ and ‘at odds with the ideals of the Olympic legacy’.

Last night the UK Border Agency in Delhi reconsidered visas (which had been supported by the FCO in Kabul, prompting the girls to make the first stage of their trip to the UK) plus all requests of letters and identification, including a letter of support from the Centre of Peace and Unity - their long term supporters in Afghanistan. The girls were expected to be arriving in the UK by tomorrow morning, however Rahem, Mohammad and Rahman are now on their way back to Kabul.

Margaret Pope, founder of Women in Sport,which raised funds to for the women’s visit to the UK said, “I am extremely disappointed. We are made to believe that avenues, especially here in the UK, are opening up to people such as Sadaf Rahem, Fahima Mohammad and Shabnam Rahman, who are trying to pursue their sporting dreams. There has been much talk of the legacy of the Olympics and rights for women in sport, but today, it is not the case for these women.”

Despite it being made clear to officials that the purpose of the visit to the UK was sport and that the women who are all students had financial support from Women In Sport for the duration of their trip, they were refused entry based on being unable to illustrate their financial circumstances in Afghanistan and concerns from the High Commission that they may not return to Afghanistan after their visit to the UK.

Melanie Brown, a former aid worker who has made a documentary about the young women said, “I know how many challenges they have had to overcome in pursuit of their sport. They have continued boxing in the face of these, reaching excellence and representing their country internationally. However, in the face of bureaucracy they are powerless. This visa refusal will come as a bitter disappointment to them. They may as well have a big tick box saying are you from Afghanistan? Don't bother.”

Debbie Mills met the three women whilst working as a security consultant protecting diplomats in the Middle East and is part of the team responsible for the UK visit. She said “The whole point of of visit was to train the girls and their coach, not just in boxing qualifications but also key life skills such as first aid so that they could return to Afghanistan more qualified and equipped to train other women and encourage development which potentially would lead to financial independence. By refusing the visas they are preventing them from prospering.”

Britain’s first licensed female boxer Jane Couch was due to train with the women during their UK visit. She said, “It is absolutely unbelievable. They are just trying to make a change.”

Women in Sport Foundation would like to thank all who have been involved so far. Margaret Pope said: “This is just the beginning for these Afghan women boxers and we remain committed to bringing them here to the UK this year, fighting for freedom.”

For further information contact Kate Westlake kate.westlake@me.com

 
 
 

Updated posted by Margaret Pope 13 months ago

URGENT PRESS UPDATE

Foreign Office ‘fast-track review‘ Kabul girl boxers in last ditch attempt to make UK fight date.
The three young women boxers from Kabul stranded in Delhi on their way to the UK for International Women’s Day events are holding out hope with a ‘positively exceptional’ eleventh hour fast-track review of their visas by the Foreign Office.
Despite Sadaf Rahem, Fahima Mohammad and Shabnam Rahman’s official ‘invited’ status and green lit visas, the UK charity Women In Sport, the High Commission Kabul, the British Amateur Boxing Association and international agencies have been working together around the clock to cut through the excessive red tape that faces the young women before they can come to Britain for Friday’s event. Social media noise has also been strong regarding the visit with Baroness Martha Lane Fox and author Irvine Welsh among online supporters.
The Foreign Office in Delhi (where Afghans must travel before coming to the UK) has been criticised in the past for delaying tactics that discourage only the wealthiest to make the trip to the UK but is now taking the extraordinary measure to fast-track a review of their paperwork having requested extra supporting documents.
Margaret Pope, Founder of Women in Sport, the charity behind the young boxers UK visit said: "The visas are now being reviewed thanks to pressure from the local community and government here in the UK, not to mention the Olympic Committee in Kabul and global organization, the Centre for Peace and Unity. The pressure must continue for them to reach the UK in time for the International Women's Day Events."
One of the justifications for the UK military involvement in Afghanistan was to help improve the terrible situation for the country’s women. It is therefore a bitter irony that when there is a clear opportunity to assist some of the bravest, talented and most inspiring young Afghan women, bureaucratic delays are quashing their dreams.
Journalist and former aid worker Melanie Brown said: "Making Afghans who request visas travel to a third country in order to receive them and then wait weeks to hear if they have been successful could cynically be seen as a way of discouraging all those but the very wealthy from visiting the UK. This is extremely frustrating, there is the considerable cost and the impracticality of staying in Delhi for weeks at a time while waiting for greenlit paperwork to be rubberstamped.”
The young women have overcome a host of cultural and financial barriers to pursue their support in Kabul are due to come to London for their first ever bout with UK rivals this weekend. The event will also include a charity auction to raise money for their gym back in Kabul. They will train at London gym BodyStudio and will also travel to Bristol to be coached by Britain’s first officially licensed female boxer Jane Couch MBE.
For more information on this story please contact Kate Westlake kate.westlake@me.com

 
 
 
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Created by Margaret Pope on January 30, 2013

Body Studio’s founder, Margaret Pope, is starting a charity honouring women in sports,  specifically a group of girls, Kabul female boxers who are  working against all odds in a male dominated society to box.


For the immediate future, Margaret is fundraising to provide the girls in Afghanistan much needed equipment and a boxing ring, and to get them over to London for training in march . 

The dream is that they will come, get training to advance their own potential, be trained to teach other women back at home and ultimately empower and inspire others who are passionate about sport but live in environments in which they do not have the opportunity and/or support to do so.
 
 
 
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"I spent just over 2 years working in Afghanistan as a bodyguard. In this time I became good friends with Sabir after we met at the Olympic stadium in Kabul when I attended a pre-Olympic event and had a sparring session with one of the Afghan female boxers. I invited Sabir to coach a women's box fit class I ran at the British Embassy and from then on we talked about how we could raise the profile of the female Afghan boxers and potentially get them over to the UK for a training camp. This looked possible last year prior to the Olympic Games and with the press coverage Sadaf was getting due to the Olympic wildcard she was given I was certain it would happen, however once news spread of Sadaf's wildcard entry being withdrawn the potential funding and sponsorships disappeared. After personally meeting the Rahimi sisters and being a good friend of Sabir's I understand their struggle and I have witnessed the lack of equipment and facilities they have, I know that Sabir fights for the girls freedom to be a boxer everyday and whilst he has made the most of his coaching background and knowledge for him to visit the UK and gain valuable experience for the girls and himself gain some valuable coaching is a dream come true and something he is so passionate about. I spoke with him today on the phone and the excitement and enthusiasm in his voice that this dream is potentially coming true is so heart warming and thoroughly deserved. This visit means the world to me and of all the things I have achieved, to make this visit happen working with Margaret, Melanie and Jane will go down as one of the greatest things I have ever been a part of". - DEBBIE MILLS

posted by Margaret Pope 14 months ago

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