Women Leaders of Tomorrow welcomes a new leader, Nigara Shaheen

Friba Rezayee: A Judoka and a changemaker

Author: Friba Rezayee

As the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games continue in Japan, WLOT celebrates Afghan woman’s participation.

Nigara Shaheen, has been selected to be part of the International Olympic Committee’s refugee team. She was born and raised in Afghanistan and is a graduate of American University of Afghanistan. She earned her Master’s degree in Russia graduating with honors in Summer of 2021, just before departing to the training camp in Qatar to prepare of the Olympic Games.

The IJF, International Judo Federation, has created an initiative, to allow stateless athletes to compete world championships , Grand Slam, events and other major tournaments, as well as the Olympic Games. It is being called “Refugee with a Judo Mission”.

The team behind the initiative includes Keiko Mitsumoto of Tokai University in Japan and me, the founder and executive director of WLOT. In 2018, myself a former Olympian in judo, began searching for other judokas who were living as refugees.

My participation in the Olympics for Afghanistan — a first — inspired many other girls to participate in the sport in my homeland. Myself later came to Canada as a refugee so the project has special meaning to me.

After I contacted the Afghan Judo coach, Farhad Hazrati, Nigara Shaheen was introduced to WLOT, and WLOT requested Dr. Lisa Allen, the Commissionaire of Gender Equality at IJF, to accept her application; which she soon did.

Nigara Shaheen combined her studies with her judo training in Russia and with the support of the WLOT and the IJF and IOC, she made it to Tokyo for the games.

Nigara Shaheen during her online mentorship sessions with Eva/credit Eva

WLOT also provides mentorship programs for Afghan athletes. Eva Minarikova, from England is mentoring and supporting Nigara, ensuring she is in the best shape possible for the Olympic Games via online training sessions.. Eva describes the partnership as a success fulfilling Nigara’s goal of participating in the games.