Biking means a lot to Shannon Galpin. It's not just about recreation, however. For her, it is also a tool she uses to promote women's rights both in the U.S. and abroad. Tonight, as a part of the Colorado Mountain College Speaker Series, Galpin will present her experiences biking through Afghanistan to bring attention to women's rights issues.
In November 2009, Galpin founded Mountain2Mountain, a nonprofit organization dedicated to establishing rights and improving opportunities for women and girls throughout the world. That same year, Galpin became the first woman to ever mountain bike across Afghanistan. Once wasn't enough, however, and she returned in 2010, riding across the Panjshir Valley and then again and again, for a total of seven different trips. These feats were impressive enough for her to be named National Geographic's Adventurer of the Year for 2013.
"We're just lucky that someone like this lives in our backyard in Breckenridge," said Rolo Cuadrado, director of continuing education at CMC.
Galpin's presentation will start with a short video about her experience, made by MoveShake, which won an award at the Adventure Film Festival. Next she plans to describe what it was like mountain biking across a war-torn country where women have very few rights.
Galpin will also discuss her upcoming project, Strength in Numbers, which she will be launching domestically this year.
"We're bringing all the lessons that we learned, all the passion for women's rights that we've been fighting for in Afghanistan, and bringing it back to the U.S.," Galpin said.
The aim of Strength in Numbers, Galpin said, is to create "an army of women" to get socially involved in their communities. They will do this through weeklong mountain bike retreats in Breckenridge, Aspen and Moab, which "will essentially be using the bike as a vehicle for change," Galpin said. "The goal is to get these women to really talk about the changes that are needed in their communities, the changes that are needed in their society, all coming from the perspective of surviving violence."
The presentation tonight will not only give Galpin a chance to share her experiences, but will also aid her organization. The entirety of the proceeds from the ticket sales will go to benefit Mountain2Mountain.
When asked what those attending can expect to get out of the presentation, Galpin said, "I hope that they walk away with a different perception of what Afghanistan is, because I think what we see in the media is not all that it is, and it's very hard to accept change when we don't understand it. I hope it changes their perception of Afghanistan and what is possible there.
"I also hope that they're inspired to create change, and whatever that passion is, I hope that they come out of that inspired that one person can make a difference, and it's not about the politicians and the Richard Bransons of the world, it's about individuals with limited resources with a lot of passion getting involved, whether that's in their own backyard or on the global stage."