Australian skateboarder Oliver Percovich created the non-profit Skateistan in 2007, a grassroots project that connects youth and education through skateboarding in Afghanistan. The organisation, which has since grown to an award-winning international NGO, caught the attention of London-based photographer Jessica Fulford-Dobson and inspired her to visit the program in Kabul in 2012—especially after learning 45% of the students were female.

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In Afghanistan, girls and women are forbidden to ride bicycles, and restrictive clothing often keeps them from enjoying other sports, but skateboarding has quickly spread throughout the country, becoming the nation’s number one sport for women. When Skateistan first arrived in Kabul, many of the locals had never heard of the activity, and some parents were hesitant to allow their daughters to join.

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Soon after arriving and entering the girl’s world, Fulford-Dobson was accepted by the young Afghan skateboarders. She photographed the girls with natural light, helping to expose their personalities through simple portraits. Within the images you can see the girls’ natural confidence, with images that capture the subjects both posed and candidly skating through the indoor facility.

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“I met so many impressive women and girls in Afghanistan: a teacher as tough and determined as any man; young Afghans in their early twenties who were volunteering at an orphanage and were passionate about being seen as strong and willing to fight for themselves, rather than as victims of circumstance; and girls who were being educated to be leaders in their communities and who were already thinking carefully about their own and their country’s future,” said Fulford-Dobson.

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Fulford-Dobson won 2nd prize in the 2014 Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize with Skate Girl, 2014 (one of the photographs taken while on location in Kabul) and her exhibition

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Jessica Fulford-Dobson: Skate Girls of Kabul is on now at the Saatchi Gallery in London until April 28. You can donate to Skateistan’s program in Kabul as well as other cities here.