One of the rising star skateboarders to take advantage of Yangon Myanmar's first international skatepark is a seven and half-year-old girl named Aye Htike Mon. She began skateboarding two years ago when the Mya Lay Yone Skatepark was built across the road from her home.
Nestled next to a busy street, the skatepark was a collaboration between international volunteers and Myanmar workers. In 2013, the government of Myanmar lifted a 25-year ban on public gatherings of more than five people. While Yangon has had a skating community for many years, the change provided the group with an opportunity to start their own park. Two years later, the Mya Lay Yone Skatepark opened. At the time, Aye was five and it was her father who first brought her to the park.
Standing under four feet tall, with carefully applied thanaka and a sparkly dress atop camouflage pants, Aye is unknowingly forging a new path for girls: one that runs with the boys. She is the only young girl who can drop in from the highest ledge, a feat many of the young boys have yet to master. This worries her grandparents, who often watch from the balcony of their home, nervous that she might get hurt or worse. As Myanmar emerges from decades of military oppression, gender roles are still quite rigid. Skateboarding is primarily a male sport.
But Aye rides because she loves it: the wind in her hair and the friends that she’s made. She skateboards every morning and evening, sometimes accompanied by her older cousin, who has placed in competitions. She’s still too young to compete, but one day she hopes to win. In the meantime, she’s content to enjoy the sport that she's helping define.