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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

Khalida overcame significant opposition before she founded the Afghan women’s football team back in 2007. She then went on to captain the team and later became the first woman to be employed by the Afghanistan Football Federation, initially as the Finance Officer, followed by the Director of Women’s Football Committee.


Despite going into exile in 2011, the pioneer remained connected to her country and involved in many activities supporting and helping projects which helps 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. 


“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 launched the Girl Power Organisation in 2014, an association that aims to use the power of sport to support refugees, migrants and immigrants. Sport is being used as a tool to integrate women within their local communities and to empower women providing a new strength and hope in life.


In 2016, Khalida continued to run the Afghan Women’s National Team where she played a leading role in bringing focus on the issue of sexual harassment, exposing abuse by officials of the Afghanistan Football Federation against female athletes in Afghanistan.


Khalida travels the world to represent women who struggle to defend themselves, with speeches at FIFA, UEFA, United Nations, UNICEF, Peace & Sport Conference. 


Khalida's work has been acknowledged by Theirworld, and in 2017, Girl Power were awarded the Challenge Award. The purpose of the campaign and award is to recognise those that challenge the embedded prejudices which prevent women and girls from achieving equality on a global scale.


champion award


Recipient of the Champion of the Year 2017 Peace and Sport Award, following Khalida's lifelong journey to  use sport as a tool for peace in her war-torn home nation.




Fare Network 20 pioneering players ward for fighting discrimination in football




Included within the Leaders U40 Class of 2019 Award for exceptional individuals who contribute to moving the sport industry forward


27-years old, Soma Mayel 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. 


She was involved with different sports activities from a very early age, such as football, Zumba dance, Gymnastics etc.


Soma has not only been active in sport but also in creating opportunities for others. She has created cultural & social events for refugees, migrants and immigrants when arriving in Denmark. This to strengthen new relationships, build networks & friendships for people starting over and creating a new life. .


Besides her social & cultural activities, Soma has been involved in many political debates and  has moderated high profile political events in Denmark.


At a very young age, Soma has managed to be a high and valuable well-known profile in Denmark.


Soma Mayel also received her masters degree in immigration Law from one of the top universities of Denmark "Copenhagen University", and has become one of the top lawyers in Denmark.


She is now working as a successful lawyer at the Danish Immigration Service. As well as being an active member at one of the political parties in Denmark, she is also actively volunteering in providing training and organising events for youths in her community.


Soma Mayel has been a part of Girl Power since 2017 where she first became our Zumba instructor and later joined the advisory board of the organisation.



Shabnam was born and raised in Germany . Her parents left their home country Afghanistan due to the war and sought asylum in Germany where they created a new and safe life for her family.


Shabnam's parents dream was to get her family better opportunities,  improving their skills, get higher education and to participate positively and actively in their society. They where raised to give back to the community, whom provided her parents with a new life and shelter. 


She has three siblings and they have all been involved in sports, especially Football, Gymnastics and dance and they are all well educated.


Shabnam started her soccer/football journey when she was eight years old where she played street football with the boys from her neighbourhood. Being the only girl amongst all those boys, she faced many obstacles, but she overcame the obstacles and started playing for the first female club ESV Einigkeit.


At the age of 15 Shabnam changed club and started her journey of playing in different professional leagues in Germany.


Ever since she was a young girl, she dreamt of playing for her home country Afghanistan. This dream came true in 2012. That year she had her debut with the National Afghan women’s football team. She will always remember her first game against Sri Lanka. She feels blessed to have her younger sister Mariam playing alongside her, in achieving her biggest dream.

Shabnam graduated from University as a Biomedical Engineer, and is now working for Olympus within the Quality Management department in Hamburg, Germany.

Alongside work, Shabnam coaches football to refugees & migrant Girls & women in her community. She also visits local schools across her local community, giving presentations & workshops about the importance of education and inclusion through sport in society.


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

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When I am on the pitch and play football, I feel like I am as free as a bird without any 'problems'; It's the place where I forget everything and only focus on the ball. It is an incredible feeling to play along with my sisters from homeland, and it doesn't matter if we win or lose



Russell is an immigrant from Iran, who left Iran at a young age to finish his higher education in Europe. First in Italy then moved to Denmark.


Russell was selected for the regional water polo youth team, later on, he changed his career to football and managed to play at a professional level in Iran. 


The love for water sports encouraged Pakzad to start to learn sailing, Windsurfing, Paddle boarding and advance Diving. 


“Diving changed my perspective towards life when I learnt diving ever since every weekend I take my gears on and go on a mission to dive to clean the sea from plastic. My lifestyle has also been moving towards becoming more green. I do my best to do my part to safe the planet by being active and taking climate action”. Pakzad. 


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


The purpose of joining this organisation for me is to set a good example of diversity & empowerment to others.  


I want to send a message to everyone that we can not witness an equal world unless we work together. The change can only happen when all genders regardless of colour, race, belief start working together for a better world.



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


Shabnam Left Afghanistan with her family when she was only a few years old. Like every other refugee, Mobarez with her family went through different countries and asylum centres and finally sought asylum in Denmark. 


Her love and passion for soccer started when she moved to Denmark as an immigrant back in 2003. ”I was a young girl when I first embarked upon my love of soccer. I used to play with boys before even thinking twice about my gender or segregating myself in any other way”. She played more than 100 official and friendly games for her club. 


Since the beginning of her professional career as a football player, she has been volunteering in coaching refugee girls & women football.


Throughout the years, besides Afghanistan, she has visited other countries, where she has been able to interact with people that admire soccer too. Most of them are young girls with a similar dream. I hear their stories of pursuing their goals for the future. I see the thrill of emotions they each uphold as they speak of their aspirations, and it reminds me of where I have come from. I hope that I can inspire these girls, not just for a future in soccer, but as a lesson that hard work, dedication, and a little hope goes a long way. 


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



Back in the day and even today, soccer to me is an expressive art, just like music, poetry or painting - Soccer to me is that holy of an art. Dancing with my feet to the tune of the ball gives me a pleasure that no one will understand


Shabnam is a women's rights activist who uses the power of football to stand for women's rights around the world.


I was a young girl when I first embarked upon my love of soccer. I used to play with boys before even thinking twice about my gender or segregating myself in any other way



Growing up in a small town in what was considered the ghetto, Heidi saw first-hand how kids were struggling with absent parents, violence and people wanting to break social heritage. Her own dad abandon her and she grew up without the support from the one person that should have been there unconditionally.


She originally had an education in child care, cause she wanted to make sure that no kids would deal with the hopelessness and loneliness that comes from missing a parent and the emotional effect it can have on life. She worked with kids for 12 years before deciding to add to her knowledge.


Growing up she found peace in culture such as music and sports where she has used the two as an outlet for emotions. Therefore, she decided to combine her passion for helping people with her passion for sport and events. 


In 2018, she graduated in Marketing Management and in 2020 she graduated in Sports management. She is looking forward to getting practical experience and combining the two things, while being a part of Girl Power.


Heidi also 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 is originally from the USA, growing up outside of Chicago. She was a student athlete playing for the women's football team at the University of Wisconsin where she majored in political science and Spanish literature. After her studies, she chased her football dreams, playing in southern Spain, Sweden, stateside and most recently in Germany.


While spending a year in Paraguay working in microfinance with the Fundacion Paraguaya, she had the opportunity to coach and prepare a girl's team (who represented the foundation) for their participation in the Homeless World Cup. It was a pivotal moment in her journey, leading her to the sport for development sector, where she has worked as a trainer, program manager, gender specialist and more recently in monitoring, evaluation and learning roles.


In 2015, Marisa earned a masters in sport for development and conflict resolution from the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC) and currently, she is completing her second studies at Konstanz University in conflict management, international administration and peace building. She has worked on different sustainability in sport research projects, 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.


2020,  Marisa joined the organisation as a project manager to support the organisation on program development & planning activities of Girl Power International Leadership Academy.



We know sport is a social construct and that the power relations within it can be both productive and oppressive. 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


powerful collaborations with our partners

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CHAMPIONS ohne GRENZEN is a non-profit association founded in April 2014. They have been active since 2012, under the umbrella of the association Weil Fußball verbindet. e.V.  They are dedicated to providing life aid through sports for refugees in the German federal states of Berlin and Brandenburg.




Camp Group/ Germany develops concepts and tools to help organisations and communities in different regions of the world overcome systemic barriers and achieve greater participation for disadvantaged groups. The goal is to contribute to sustainable social change through projects and knowledge transfer in the areas of education, sports and capacity building.



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



Red Cross / Sandholm Asylum Center / Denmark - A public institution for asylum seekers in Denmark and the largest reception center for asylum seekers in Denmark. The center's daily operations are run by the Danish Red Cross. The center also serves as both a receiving and departure center for newly arrived asylum seekers and asylum seekers who have been rejected. However, if rejected for asylum, the group will eventually be moved to the Sjælsmark deportation camp.



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



A Danish professional football club that plays in the Superliga, the top league in Denmark.  FCN provides a platform and opportunities to organise Girl Power activities in the club. The club also provides facilities and opportunities for the participants to take a club tour, to watch official league games and enjoy the club environment, and to meet other people at the stadium during the games.



FARE.NET/ UK- The Farenetwork is an umbrella organisation that brings individuals and informal groups together. The organisation is driven to combat inequality in football and uses sport as a means for social change.



Earth  Refugee/ Greece - Consisting of basic but often overlooked emergency mitigation, adaptation, integration tools and developmental services for refugees within the realm of “humanitarian aid in the 21st century”. This in cooperation with state authorities, international & national NGOs, foundations, grassroots groups, individual volunteers, entrepreneurs & corporations.



Freedom seekers Football Club/ Turkey - Is based in Giresun Turkey. The club was established in 2017 by the former captain and former player of Afghanistan women's National Football team, Frozan Tajali. She is also a refugee.  The players are refugees from different war-torn countries such as Afghanistan, Irak, Iran, Syria and Somalia. Different age groups (of females and males-instead of “both”/binary) from both genders are registered.



Kızlar Sahada is a social enterprise that works to rewire the ''you can't'' gender code which is often imposed on girls and women of all ages. She empowers them through football. With the mottos #iyifutbol, #goodfootball, #kindfootball, #gentlegame, our aim is to stay within fair-play. Encouraging kindness is the base of the organisation.

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