Honoring her efforts as the first woman to mountain bike in Afghanistan and her fight for women’s rights in conflict zones, earlier this month Shannon Galpin was named one of the 2013 National Geographic Adventurers of the Year. The prestigious recognition highlights not only her adventurous pursuits, but also her humanitarian work in this war-torn region.
“I’ve always felt that the best way to know a country and its people is to get outside. In Afghanistan not only do I try to work with locals one-on-one, without the confines of security and convoys, but also I try to truly interact in their country. I think that the best way to rally support for our programs is to highlight our common humanity, to show a country like Afghanistan in a different light to the West, and show a different example of Americans and of women to Afghans,” Galpin said in a statement.
Cycling has allowed her to do just that, bridging cultural boundaries through adventure. Based in Breckenridge, Colorado, Galpin is committed to empowering women around the world, both in conflict zones abroad and here at home.
“I focused on Afghanistan because it’s repeatedly ranked the worst place in the world to be a woman. I wanted to fight for women that didn’t have a voice," she said. "Over time I realized that unfortunately the same issues are affecting women in the US. Using the mountain bike as a catalyst, I decided to also fight for the voice and value of women here domestically that have been victimized, giving them the chance to rise above through taking part in biking camps, which we’ll be launching in 2013.”
The public is invited to vote for the People’s Choice Adventurer of the Year contest. Fans can vote every day for their favorite nominee. The adventurer with the most votes on Jan. 16, 2013, will be the 2013 People’s Choice Adventurer of the Year. Other notable entrants include Felix Baumgartner, who skydived from 23.5 miles high while the world watched live online; Josh Dueck the first paraplegic skier to land a backflip; and ultra-runner Lizzy Hawker, who has won the 103-mile Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc five times.
Galpin is also the founder of Mountain2Mountain, a nonprofit organization working to empower the people of Afghanistan with a focus on women and girls and gender equity. M2M believes that investing in women and girls is the most effective way to achieve stability and economic prosperity. The organization works alongside the Afghan people, other nonprofits and local governments to develop programs that will create sustainable change.