Khalida Popal: “Sport has power and magic to bring people together”


On 20 September, as part of the European Week of Sport Denmark, the Girl Power Organisation is holding a mini-festival in Aarhus with football, basketball, freestyle and other fun activities.

The event is open for all interested women and girls aged 12 years and older but the main focus is on refugees and immigrants. The day takes place in collaboration with GAME, AKF football club and other local associations so participants can find out more about where they can #BeActive on a regular basis.

The Girl Power Organisation was founded by Khalida Popal, former captain of the Afganistan Women’s National Football Team and Ambassador of the European Week of Sport in Denmark.

“When I was an asylum seeker myself and went through different refugee camps both in Norway and Denmark, I felt there was a strong need for sports activities for women in refugee camps. Lack of sports activities and social activities effected negatively the mental health of women in refugee centres, and thereby subjected them to deep depression. Most of the women in refugee centres have isolated themselves in their rooms. I remember some of them tried to commit suicide due to the deep depression that they were suffering from.

I was also suffering from depression, but when witnessing the situation of women in the centres, I started to think about what I can do to help those women to overcome the barriers. I decided to use the power of sports once again to help women to get out of those isolated, depressive environments and thereby become active and healthy.

I started encouraging them to go for a run with me outside, where they could breathe fresh air and get out of the refugee centres for a few hours. We started with a small group but later on so many women joined our team! Then we started adding more sport activities such as football, bicycle, dance, etc.

The group was growing, and women were becoming more active and happier. The feedback from women was that sport has made a huge impact on their lives, that it helped them to suffer less from stress and insomnia, that it gave them hope for the future.

Sport helped me to become the woman I am today. I used football to empower women and to be the voice of the voiceless women in my country. After I saw the power of sport again in refugee centres. I saw the impact on women there, how they have become more positive and happy and how they could forget about waiting at least for a few hours. The idea to found my organisation to help women was born in the refugee centre. When I got permission to stay in Denmark, I launched the Girl Power Organisation,” tells Khalida Popal.

Girl Power Organisation is involved in different projects. They facilitate football, running and swimming activities to help refugee women and girls to overcome barriers and to build networks and make friends. Usually, the activities are open for everyone, not only for refugees and immigrants.

One of the main projects of the Organisation is REWINS (REfugee Women INclusion through Sports), supported by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union. The main objective of the project is using sport as a tool for inclusion and integration of refugee women and girls in society.

“Sport has always proven to help communities and people to come together. It has power and magic that can make people to forget hate, and come along and enjoy the moment together. To have a strong and healthy society we need equal inclusion and active participation of everyone in society despite their culture, religion, ethnic and race differences,” says Khalida Popal.