Playing to Win: Volleyball Champion Muzhgan Encourages Young Women to Fight for Their Dreams


March 08, 2017 – Muzhgan Sadaat, 23, is a soft-spoken young woman who comes across as happy-go-lucky. But when it comes to following her passion, she won’t surrender to anybody.

Muzhgan was ten when she started to play volleyball, but as she grew older, her father thought it wasn’t appropriate for her to continue. “He said our relatives didn’t like it,” recalls Muzhgan. “They believed it was shameful for a girl to play sports.”


  • Volleyball champion Muzhgan won’t surrender to anybody when it comes to following her passion.
  • Muzhgan ignored her relatives who thought it was shameful for a girl to play volleyball as she had to achieve her dreams.
  • Now the same relatives are proud of her. “They congratulate me on my wins and are pleased when they see me on TV,” says Muzhgan.
  • UNDP organized a women volleyball contest that attracted more than 1500 students, youth and civil activists.
  • Muzghan believes such sports events will change people’s attitude and can eventually eliminate violence against women.

Despite her fear of getting caught, she ignored her father’s advice, and continued to play after school and even sneaked out with her friends at weekends. Her relatives and extended family members thought she was immodest, “but I ignored them, because I had to achieve my dreams,” says Muzhgan.

She still had the support of her mother, and this helped her pursue her passion for several years, until eventually she was chosen to the national volleyball team.

When her father found out, he was at first shocked and then said it had to stop. “My dad was worried about my safety and wouldn’t let me join in,” says Muzhgan. But she kept trying to convince him over several months, and finally, she got his support.

She joined the national team and took part in several national contests, as well as some regional ones in Tajikistan and India. She brought home fame and trophies. This changed how people perceived her.

“I brought pride to my father and my family,” says Muzhgan. “Now, even my relatives are proud of me. They congratulate me on my wins and are pleased when they see me on TV.”

Scoring points for women: Volleyball teams compete in Kabul women's championshipMuzhgan, 23, plays at a volleyball tournament UNDP organized for five leading women’s volleyball teams from the Kabul area at Kabul University to mark the Elimination of Violence Against Women campaign. Photo: UNDP Afghanistan / Omer Sadaat / 2016

Muzhgan is now an advocate for girls in sports. She trains girls and convinces their parents to allow them to play. Muzhghan thinks that girls have a lot of potential, but their sports ambitions die as they get older and their families restrict their mobility.

She believes success doesn’t come without fighting for it. “If you don’t try to achieve your goals and dreams, others won’t do it for you,” says Muzhgan.

Despite grappling with so many challenges in so many different areas of life in Afghanistan, some young women like Muzghan are brave enough to fight the restrictions which local communities impose on them.

Muzhgan (right) listens as the national anthem is played before a match. © UNDP Afghanistan / Omer Sadaat

Celebrating these achievements, UNDP organized a volleyball tournament for five leading women’s volleyball teams from the Kabul area at Kabul University to mark the Elimination of Violence Against Women campaign. The teams competed for the Kabul Women Volleyball Cup of the Year. More than 1500 students, youth and civil activists watched the games. In the end, Muzhgan’s team won the trophy.

Muzghan has proved that sports can help people think differently about women, whether it is their sisters, their daughters or their wives. Muzhgan says, “When young people see them playing with such skill, it inspires them, and they’re more likely to let their sisters and wives play sports.” By changing attitudes, she believes such tournaments can help eliminate violence against women.

Sports events like these are an opportunity for young women to demonstrate their talent and give an example to society of how women can succeed. “This provides us a platform to show the world that women can do things,” Muzhgan says. “We can do it.”

Our new gender project, EGEMA, is funded by Korea. It works to improve data and mainstream gender in national policies, empower women economically, and change behavior by working with mullahs and youth.


UNDP Around the world

You are at UNDP Afghanistan 
Go to UNDP Global