The Third Gender: Taking Action in Afghanistan, a Photo Essay

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This post originally appeared atEcoSalon.


It’s hard not to be inspired when you meet Shannon Galpin. At first look she’s your average smart, athletic woman, living in Colorado. Dig a little deeper and you’ll learn she’s a single mom. Spend a few more minutes talking and she’ll tell you the story of how she left her career, sold her house and launched a nonprofit, committing her life to advancing education and opportunity for women and girls.

Galpin focuses her efforts on the war-torn country of Afghanistan, and with her organization, Mountain2Mountain, has already touched the lives of hundreds of men, women and children.

As the founder of Mountain2Mountain, I’ve been lucky to travel often throughout Afghanistan, working with Afghans as they strive to rebuild their country. My passion is working with Afghan women and girls as they fight to prove their value and worth in this male dominated culture. Afghanistan is consistently ranked as the worst place to be a woman and yet women and girls are key to the future of the country.

As a woman, and specifically, as a foreign woman, I’ve had unique insights into this country thanks to the concept of the Third Gender. A concept that treats foreign women as honorary males, and allows them to interact as equals with men, while still being a woman and therefore have full access to the women. In essence, acting as their proxy when they do not have a voice. 

As a mountain biker I’ve felt the weight of women’s oppression knowing that in Afghanistan, women can’t ride bikes, but have embraced the Third Gender concept to the hilt by experiencing this country on two wheels. Via my motorcycle and my mountain bike I have ridden in several areas of Afghanistan, in the hopes that I could change stereotypes back home about the beauty and future tourism of Afghanistan, while challenging the stereotypes in Afghanistan of women on bikes. 

Galpin recently returned from a trip to Afghanistan, and documented her time in an exclusive photo essay for EcoSalon.
Learning to fish in Panjshir River by net.
Chaihanna in Kabul–fresh kebabs street-side.
Flying with the Afghan National Army to Khost Province. A quick stopover includes time for prayer.
All images by Shannon Galpin of Mountain2Mountain. Image at top is of a Buzkashi match in Panjshir Valley–horses and riders race through adjoining fields and roadways. 
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