by Abdul Haleem, Jawed Omid
KABUL, Jan. 19 (Xinhua) -- "My prime objective is gender equality between men and women in Afghanistan and that's why I'm calling on all girls to break down the cultural barriers and join me in promoting Wushu to achieve this goal," Wushu martial artist, Seema Azimi, 20, told Xinhua recently.
During a practice session on a snow-blanketed hilltop on the western edge of Kabul along with her trainees, Azimi stated that Afghan females have no shortage in talent compared with men but that the "harmful traditions" have suppressed women's wisdom.
"In my opinion women like men are free to go outside of home, to practice sport including Wushu and to demonstrate their ability and intelligence," the female athlete asserted.
Alongside 10 other practitioners of Wushu on a hilltop where the temperature was minus 2 degrees Celsius, Azimi added that, "Wushu doesn't recognize cold or hot weather" and the players should be ready in all climates.
In Afghanistan's conservative society where people, especially in the countryside, deeply believe in old traditions and don't allow their female family members to go out of their home except when accompanied by a very close relative, playing sports in the open air is extremely risky for women.
Azimi said that her trainees had all experienced problems with their families pertaining to the country's deeply-rooted patriarchal traditions which are still prevalent in a county where militancy claims the lives of countless people almost every day.
"Of course, as women, we face a variety of challenges in our daily lives including being teased on the streets, but we have no choice but to persist," the determined coach, Azimi said.
Azimi, who learned Wushu in Iran during her life there as a refugee and returned to her home country Afghanistan two years ago, besides teaching the martial art to a group of girls, herself is regularly practicing at the Shaolin Wushu club, a local club named after the famous Chinese Wushu school in Shaolin, to improve her proficiency.
"In the beginning when I opened my private club two years ago to teach Wushu, no girl dared to attend at first, but gradually the number increased and presently 20 girls attend the club to practice this art of self-defense," she explained.
Contrary to others, Azimi's family, especially her father Rahmatullah Azimi, 45, is also an athlete and supports his daughter to improve her career as as a Wushu expert.
"I am proud of my daughter and would continue to support her," her father told Xinhua.
In conservative, post-Taliban Afghanistan, women have become considerably more empowered and their social status has improved demonstrably in comparison with the Taliban era of rule when the hardliner group confined women to their homes and banned schools for girls.
Rehana, 20, is a Wushu trainee and while thanking her coach for promoting Wushu in Kabul city, said happily that her "health is getting better and better since attending the club four months ago."
Like Seema Azimi a few other girls including Fakhria, Rubaba have launched social programs aimed at raising women's status to that of men in the conservative society.
Women in today's Afghanistan are serving as cabinet members, politicians, business people, movie directors and musicians.
However, many believe that there is still a long way ahead for women in Afghanistan to achieve parity with men.