This week, ISM had the honour of hosting six young women from the Afghanistan Youth Women’s National Football Team.

When the Taliban took over Afghanistan in 2021, women and girls were banned from public life, forced to leave work and schools and forbidden to practise sports. Fearing persecution, the Afghanistan Youth Women’s National Football Team made a daring escape for safety, freedom and the right to play their sport. You can learn more about their story by watching We Are Ayenda | A True Story on WhatsApp, a documentary produced by WhatsApp. Now resettled in Portugal, the girls continue training as a team called ‘Ayenda’, which means the Future.

As part of their visit, five ISM families hosted the members of the Ayenda team from 2nd to 6th June. This allowed each member of the Ayenda team, and our ISM students, a truly immersive experience during their stay at ISM and Monaco. The visit encompassed four days of cultural exchange, camaraderie, and friendship. During this time, our students listened to the experiences of the Ayenda team, fostering connections that transcend borders and cultures.

On Monday and Tuesday evenings, FMC Elite hosted the Ayenda teammates for two sessions of football training. This was an opportunity for the girls to showcase their amazing talent to professional coaches who live and work within our community. Our sincere thanks to Richard Dunne and his team at FMC Elite who were so welcoming to the ISM and Ayenda teammates, allowing the girls to share their skills and passion for the sport.


The Ayenda girls also visited the Croix-Rouge Monaco, where they shared their harrowing journey of escaping Afghanistan to a delegation of Humanitarian specialists, some of whom currently work with refugees and asylum seekers. The girls recounted the immense challenges they faced and their determination to seek safety and a better future. Despite the hardships, the girls expressed a deep sense of pride in their Afghan heritage, yet they made it clear that they have no desire to return to their homeland as long as it remains under its current oppressive regime. They hope that by sharing their story, they can inspire others and become changemakers, advocating for freedom and equality. Their courage and resilience shines through as they look to build a brighter future while honouring their roots.

Photo credit @croix-rougemonaco

We were also privileged to have been given the rights to screen ‘The Breadwinner‘ on Wednesday, 5th June. ‘The Breadwinner’ is an Oscar nominated, animated film from executive producer Angelina Jolie and the creators of the Academy Award-nominated The Secret of Kells and Song of the Sea. The film is based on Deborah Ellis’ bestselling novel and tells the story of Parvana, an 11-year-old girl growing up under the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2001. ISM was extremely honoured to welcome Saara Chaudry, the Canadian actress who was the voice of the main character, Parvana. Miss Chaudry spoke passionately about her role in this movie, and she commended the Ayenda teammates for their courage in sharing their experiences in the hope of a better future.

We were also delighted to give the Ayenda teammates a tour of our new school site at Testimonio II towards the end of the week to complete their immersive week at ISM.

ISM would like to thank ISM Board member Mr Andrew Heinrich for initiating this truly memorable global exchange as well as the ISM host families who welcomed the Ayenda teammates into their homes and families during their visit.


More news