Their biggest hurdle preventing girls from taking up sports is religious extremism, particularly for those living in conservative Muslim countries. Although there is nothing in the Quran forbidding women and girls from exercising and playing sports, religious scholars are making Islam more restrictive than it should be through misinterpretations.
When Egyptian activist Salma Said was asked at a discussion in London on women and the Arab Spring about what people in the West could do to help, her answer was immediate and direct: "You could stop your politicians selling arms to the people who are shooting us." Said spoke from experience: she was hospitalised after being shot during protests that followed the Port Said football stadium tragedy that left at least 74 people dead.
The state of women's rights in Afghanistan is now at a critical crossroads. Surveys show there is widespread fear among Afghan women that their government and its international partners will trade away their rights in a cynical attempt to barter some kind of political settlement with insurgent groups ahead of the international military pull-out in 2014.