Masuma Hossaini is determined to educate fellow Afghan women and girls about the health benefits of staying fit through exercising and to provide a safe environment for them to train. ?She?is the founder and owner of Alzahra Fitness Sports Club and wants to open more fitness centres for women throughout?Afghanistan.
Masuma is now preparing to open a third branch as a result of a partnership with USAID (the lead U.S. Government agency that works to end extreme global poverty) through its?Assistance in Building Afghanistan by Developing Enterprises?(ABADE) Project. The new fitness club will offer regular gym services, self-defense classes for women and girls, and salon and spa services.
In her own words:
“When I established this Association for women athletics, I was under great pressure. ?I had financial problems, I didn’t have any staff. ?The centre was new and I didn’t have any students. ?But we gradually gained trust among people. ?We made them realise that exercise is good for women too.
ASGP has helped a lot. ?In addition to organising sport classes, they helped us develop the administration and finance of the organisation. ?Our team won first place in a nationwide competition. ?We won 7 golds and 4 championship cups.
As an Afghan woman, I want them to use their self-confidence and there knowledge to work to solve Afghanistan’s problems.
If each woman could solve one problem, we will have a good and sound society.
Since the funding from ASGP finished, we receive income through students fees who come to practice and also through the sale of sports items. ?This income helps our association to survive.”
Masuma got in touch with the FCN to seek help in spreading the word about her work and to encourage more Afghan women to take part in sport. We hope to keep in touch with Masuma and bring you more about her incredible story, her fight for the right of women in her country and about her own ladies sportswear line launched in Kabul. Below we asked Masuma to tell us a bit more about her fitness club and about her own journey in sport and exercise:
Can you tell us a bit more about your health club Alzahra Fitness Sports Club?
I established The Alzahra Sports & Cultural Association (ACSA) on date of 9 October 2009. ?It is the first and largest sport organization in Afghanistan and was opened?with the presence of the Presidents of the Physical Education and the Afghan Olympic Association, including directors of sports federations and the elders of the area.
I have the aim of creating a sports culture and to establish it within the tradition of Afghanistan. I want to try to develop and increase sport participation?for women. Within the past 7 years since it’s opening, the Alzahra Cultural and Sport Association has brought very positive changes.
Alzahra Sports and cultural Association is now taken seriously and almost 400 women take part in regular sports activities.
What activities are available in your sports club and what activities do you coach?
In the sports and cultural complex the women take part in?Fitness, Aerobics, Gymnastics, Yoga, Zumba, Taekwondo, Kickboxing, Football, Volleyball, athletics and Ping Pang strings. The sports that I coach are Fitness and Taekwondo.
There is a lot of interest for sports like swimming, shooting, horseback riding and sailing, but there are no facilities for these sports and no one with expertise in them. ?We hope to increase our clubs space and provide these facilities in the future.
Some women only want to take part in fitness to look after their wellbeing and be healthier, but there are some who want to take part in International level sport and show their physical capabilities.
So at first, they get involved with exercise because of the interest in wellbeing and then many move on to sports like volleyball, Taekwondo and Gymnastics.
We not only provide sport activities for women, but also provide sports activities for children too, these activities are Gymnastics, Taekwondo and Football.
Can you tell us about your own taekwondo career and why you wanted to coach it?
Taekwondo is an Olympic sport and many people are interested in this sport in Afghanistan. ?With my experience in Taekwondo, I wanted to give Afghan women training in it.
When I first started, it was unusual for a woman to train in Taekwondo and I had to do it under the supervision of a male trainer. ?This was very difficult and was not liked in the Afghan society. ?I did however go on to get my Black Belt (Dan 1) and achieve a Taekwondo referees licence.
Since 2013 I have trained women and girls in Taekwondo and lots of girls under my coaching and training have reached the National and International standards and teams.
What advice would you give to other Afghan women who may be worried about taking part in sport or exercise?
As a female coach, I recommend all women take part in sport and exercise everyday to benefit their health and wellbeing. ?By introducing sport into communities we will create a healthy society also.
In your opinion, how do you think we can increase the number of Afghan female coaches so that we can then increase the number of women taking part in sport?
Unfortunately, sports remains not very important among women. ?And due to a lack of proper facilities and a low level of sports knowledge, it will be very difficult to create more female coaches.
I believe that if we can have more women in coaching, it will increase the number of women and girls taking part in sport in our communities.