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Meet the Girl Power Team

We are one team - a combination of individuals and parters that collaborate to help grow and delivery the impact of Girl Power across communities around the world.


Khalida Popal

“I played as a defender, and my role was to defend my team. Today, I am a defender of Human Rights, and this is my role to advocate for human rights by using the power of my voice and platform."

Khalida founded the Afghan women’s football team back in 2007, went on to captain the team and later became the first woman to be employed by the Afghanistan Football Federation. After her exile in 2011, she remained connected to her country and involved in many activities supporting projects to help women in terms of healthy lifestyle and sports.

Today, Khalida is the founder & Director of the Girl Power Organisation, the Commercial & Women’s Football Coordinator at FC Nordsjælland, a Brand ambassador for Hummel, an ambassador of the 'European Week of Sport Denmark', and is a FIFA Legend.


Khalida travels the world to represent women who struggle to defend themselves, with speeches at FIFA, UEFA, United Nations, UNICEF, Peace & Sport Conference. Her work has been acknowledged by Theirworld, and in 2017, Girl Power were awarded the Challenge Award.

Read more about Khalida:

Full bio

Champion of the Year 2017 Peace and Sport Award

Fare Network

Leaders U40 Class of 2019 Award


Soma is originally from Afghanistan and her childhood was spent as a refugee in Russia. In 2001 Soma and her family moved to Denmark where they still live. From an early age she has practised different sports activities, such as football, Zumba dance and gymnastics.

Soma acquired her Master's Degree in Immigration Law from Copenhagen University and has become one of the top lawyers in the country, currently working at the Danish Immigration Service. As well as being an active member at one of the political parties in Denmark, she volunteers in providing training and organising events for youths in her community, has also been involved in many political debates and has moderated high profile political events in Denmark.


Soma has been a part of Girl Power since 2017, first as our Zumba instructor and later as a member of the advisory board.

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Shabnam was born and raised by Afghan refugees in Germany. She started her football journey when she was eight years old, when she played street football with the boys from her neighbourhood, until she joined the ESV Einigkeit female football club. At the age of 15 she changed club and went on playing in different professional leagues in Germany.


She always dreamt of playing for her home country Afghanistan, and she debutted with the National Afghan women’s football team against Sri Lanka in 2012, along with her younger sister Mariam.

Shabnam graduated in Biomedical Engineering, and is now working for Olympus within the Quality Management department in Hamburg, Germany. She coaches football to refugees and migrant girls and women in her community and gives presentations and workshops in local schools about the importance of education and inclusion through sport.


Shabnam joined Girl Power in 2017 and is currently on the advisory board. Shortly after joining, she launched the German branch of the organisation under the name 'Girl Power Hope Fighters Hamburg'.


Nagin was born and raised by Afghan parents in Denmark. She started playing football with the boys in her local community back when there was no girls club. She eventually launched her own girls’ team, including a mix of Danish citizens and girls from refugee & immigrant communities.

Nagin played as a pro-football player in ACFC football club and managed the collaboration between the ACFC football club and the leisure club, with a special focus on female members.


She has collaborated with the Danish Olympic Committee Danmarks Idrætsforbund on DIF Get2Sport, a project to integrate non-western girls in society through sport & education, has been youth representative of the municipality where she lives, and has worked as a consultant for the Mayors office in dealing with integration and development projects.

Nagin is a student of Physical Education at Aarhus University, an ambassador & member of advisory board of the Danish Football FA (DBU), and a pro-football player at Barbrand IF. She has been nominated for the Danish Football Awards 2018, the Social Prize 2019 and the Coach of the Year 2019 Award. 


Nagin joined Girl Power in 2018 and is an advisory baord member and a football coach of the organisation.



Russell left Iran at a young age to finish his higher education in Europe, first in Italy and then in Denmark. Back in Iran, he was selected for the regional water polo youth team, before he switched to football, which he played at a professional level. 


The love for water sports led him to learn sailing, windsurfing, paddle boarding and advance diving. “Diving changed my perspective towards life. I started diving every weekend to clean the sea from plastic. My whole lifestyle has been moving towards becoming more green,” says Pakzad. 


Pakzad joined Girl Power in 2019, as an event & project manager for the Erasmus European Project .

"We cannot witness an equal world unless we work together. Change can only happen when all genders regardless of colour, race, belief start working together for a better world."


Shabnam left Afghanistan with her family when she was only a few years old and sought asylum in Denmark. 


Shabnam is a former captain of the Afghanistan Women National Team and a former player of BI Brønderslev, a pro- danish football club.


Since the beginning of her professional career as a football player, she has been volunteering coaching refugee girls & women football. "I hope that I can inspire these girls," she says, "not just for a future in soccer, but as a lesson that hard work, dedication, and a little hope goes a long way."


Shabnam joined Girl Power in 2016 as a football instructor, mentor and advisory board member.



Tanya has a rich experience in sports, from swimming to track & field and football. After a few years within individual sports, she decided to solely focus on football, where she fell for the team spirit and the versatile features of the game. 


She moved around following football opportunities since she was 16, struggling to make a living solely on her football career, until she decided to settle in Copenhagen to focus on her studies in 2018. She wants to provide future generations with better financial opportunities within football so that young girls can also pursue their dreams of becoming professional players.

"Football is the most widespread sport in the world, and if we use the platform of football wisely, we can create a safe and inclusive environment for everyone," she declares. "There is a lot of work to do, but I believe in the positive impact of sports, cooperation and solidarity."

Tanya joined Girl Power 2019, after meeting Khalida at university.


Leyla was born in Germany and raised in Turkey and started practising sports at a very young age, including karate, volleyball and flag football.


Being a female athlete in Turkey wasn’t always easy. She faced severe inequality, whether it was difficulties finding sponsors, access to proper coaching staff and facilities or media visibility.


She recently moved to Denmark to pursue a Master's Degree in Design at Designskolen Kolding. As a social designer, she believes that designers can trigger behavioural change and have a transformative role in building a sustainable and equitable society.


Leyla joined Girl Power in 2020 through a collaboration for her Master's thesis involving the planning of a Learn & Play event in Turkey. 

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Growing up in a small Danish town, Heidi saw first-hand how kids were struggling with absent parents and violence, and she herself was raised by a single mother.


She pursued an education in child care to help children and she worked with kids for 12 years before deciding to expand her knowledge in order to combine her passion for helping people with her interest for sport and cultural events. 


She graduated in Marketing Management in 2018 and in Sports Management in 2020, before joining Girl Power.


Heidi strongly believes in lifting each other up and that family is not just something you are born in to, it’s also the people you meet throughout life.


Marisa Schlenker grew up outside of Chicago, USA. She played in the women's football team at the University of Wisconsin, where she majored in Political Science and Spanish Literature. After her studies, she played in southern Spain, Sweden and Germany.


After spending a year in Paraguay, where she coached a girl's team for the Homeless World Cup, she turned to the field of sport for development, and has since worked as a trainer, program manager, gender specialist and more recently in monitoring, evaluation and learning.


In 2015, Marisa earned a Master's in Sport for Development and Conflict Resolution from the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC) and she is currently completing her studies in Conflict Management, International Administration and Peace Building at Konstanz University.


She is a member of Sport Ecology and the impact working group within SandSI. In 2018, she was the lead researcher of the EU funded Global Goals World Cup Erasmus + project, where she had the privilege to work alongside Khalida, Shabnam M. and Shabnam R. In 2019, she co-hosted a Women in Football workshop with Shabnam R and the Girl Power team in Hamburg.

"We know sport is a social construct and that the power relations within it can be both productive and oppressive," she explains. "It is critical to consider these relations when examining how sport can intentionally be used to achieve non- sport outcomes and particularly those relating to gender social development outcomes."


Marisa joined Girl Power in 2020 as a project manager to support the programme development & planning activities of Girl Power International Leadership Academy.

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partner collaborations

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CHAMPIONS ohne GRENZEN is a non-profit association founded in April 2014 dedicated to providing life aid through sports for refugees in the German federal states of Berlin and Brandenburg.



Camp Group Germany develops tools to help organisations and communities in different regions of the world overcome systemic barriers for disadvantaged groups, with a focus on education, sports and capacity building.



Hummel A/S- A is a Danish sporting goods brand which supports Girl Power with sports equipment and goods.



Sandholm Asylum Center is the largest reception center for asylum seekers in Denmark and its daily operations are run by the Danish Red Cross.



Trampoline House is an independent community center in Copenhagen, Denmark, which provides refugees and asylum seekers with a place of support, community and purpose.



FC Nordsjælland is a Danish professional football club playing in the Superliga, the top league in Denmark. They provide Girl Power with a space and opportunities to organise activities, and a chance to take a club tour, to watch official league games and enjoy the club environment.



The Farenetwork is an umbrella organisation which brings individuals and informal groups together dedicated to fight inequality in football and uses sport as a means for social change.



Earth  Refugee Greece provides humanitarian aid in cooperation with state authorities, international & national NGOs, foundations, grassroots groups, individual volunteers, entrepreneurs & corporations.



Based in Giresun, Turkey, the club was established in 2017 by refugee and former captain and player of Afghanistan Women's National Football team, The is made up of refugees of all genders and age groups from different war-torn countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Syria and Somalia.



Kızlar Sahada is a social enterprise working to eradicate the ''you can't'' gender code often imposed on girls and women of all ages, empowering them through football and the mottos #iyifutbol, #goodfootball, #kindfootball, #gentlegame.

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