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Successful Refugees and Immigrants Leading the Way, Part 16 of a Multi-part Series: Youth Football Coach Rozma Ghafouri

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Today, we would like to share with you an encouraging story about a young Afghan refugee in Iran – Ms. Rozma Ghafouri, who is a football coach dedicated to helping to inform Afghan refugee children and their parents about the importance of school through sports. She is also the winner of the 2020 United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Nansen Refugee Award in Asia.

For Rozma, football was not just a sport, but it also meant happiness in her childhood. Since that time, Rozma has vowed to help people like her to be happy, smile and forget about the tough challenges in life. Having seen what sports can bring to a person’s life, Rozma understands the importance of helping children to engage in football. In 2015, with the help of the Bureau for Aliens and Foreign Immigrants’ Affairs of the Iranian Ministry of Interior and UNHCR, Rozma, at the age of 24, established the Youth Initiative Fund (YIF) in Iran's southern city of Shiraz, her adopted city. The YIF aims to use sports as one way to help Afghan children stay in school. It also provides emotional support, and encourages children to access literary and numeracy classes and counseling. Since being established, the YIF has offered support to around 400 youth yearly, including Iranian children.

The YIF has made a great impact on the lives of Afghan refugee children, especially girls. What the YIF team has done is to open the doors to different paths where girls may decide their future rather than giving in to the societal norm imposed on them. Through these activities, they have a chance to learn, relax, communicate, acquire knowledge about the world and be whoever they want to be.

With tireless efforts, the YIF’s work has slowly changed cultural norms in some Afghan communities about girls playing sports, including football. It is also making positive changes in the Afghan community around the world by positively reshaping people’s conceptions. Bravo, Rozma Ghafouri, for your incredible and amazing work.
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