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Women Football in Pakistan – A personal view

Women Football in Pakistan – A personal view

By Hajra Khan, Women’s National Team Vice-Captain

In Pakistan, there is a general lack of support for girls who want to do more than just get married and become mothers. Girls face many obstacles, including lack of access to quality and affordable education, and cultural barriers. Consequently, their freedom of movement and pursuit of their dreams is restricted to a great extent be it in the field of sport, politics, education, science and so forth. While there exist some exceptions, a vast majority of the women are not exposed to equal opportunities and avenues in order to express themselves. 

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From my experience as one of the pioneers of women football in Pakistan, I have witnessed an increase in the appeal and popularity of the sport among women and men alike. While the initiative to present an opportunity for females to participate in this sport is commendable, there is a general consensus that more efforts are needed for further improvements. Investments to uplift the standard of the game and the officials involved as well as increase the publicity to reach women of all backgrounds are essential. Presently, I feel that the efforts made are rather superficial and lack dedication apparent from the fact that national tournaments take place once annually without an ongoing organization. The National Women Football team has only played three international tournaments while there are opportunities for further engagement and improvement. On the contrary, we see regional examples in other South Asian countries where the girls are given more opportunities to grow and hone their talent by participating in various events and friendly matches. I believe that we are equally capable of facing any competition given adequate training and exposure.

429203_402785829789269_1132158509_nThe violence against women is a major problem in Pakistan that needs to be seriously addressed. Every year, there are between 8,000 to 9,000 reported (and many unreported) crimes against women. These include, rape, acid throwing or burning, honor killings, forced marriages, forced prostitution and female trade. Unfortunately, the past few years have been witness to a steep increase in such crimes. Despite the passage of numerous bills in the parliament, its implementation is still limited to a few cases since the social and cultural context of Pakistani society is predominantly patriarchal. The civil society and women’s groups in Pakistan, however, are actively fighting for women’s cause to mitigate biased attitudes against their complaints of violence among prosecutors, police officers and medico legal doctors.

Additionally, while the participation of women in politics through reserved seats (quota) is increasing, the presence of women in political parties as well as in political structure at the local, provincial, and national levels remains insignificant due to cultural and structural barriers. A prominent female minister was assassinated publicly by a fanatic for being actively involved in politics which is considered purely a man’s domain.

400960_402797259788126_594211250_nIn 1996, when sisters Shaiza and Sharmeen Khan first tried to introduce women’s cricket in Pakistan, they were met with court cases and even death threats. The government refused to grant them permission to play India in 1997, and ruled that women were forbidden from playing sports in public. However, later on they were granted permission, and the Pakistani women’s cricket team played its first recorded match on January 28, 1997.

The recent story of a fifteen year old school student and education activist, Malala, who was shot for raising her voice in support of female education, is upsetting. Malala’s bravery and perseverance by continuing her education in the face of a ban is admirable and gives a loud and clear message to the extremist that their injustice will be met with resistance. We have many more such examples where young girls are forced to discontinue education out of fear of life from the extremists and are deprived from one of their basic rights.249422_402795166455002_110903837_n

These issues are of utmost significance to me on a personal level as well as to the society at large in which I reside. Being equal citizens of the country, female participation and representation in different fields is a right that no one can take away. Moreover, females make up almost half of the population of my country and thus cannot be excluded from legislation, decision-making and contribution towards the economy. And of course, when it comes to legislation, there is no one suitable enough to legislate for their own interests.

168205_125526620848526_2318147_nIn my opinion, sports such as football can provide an excellent platform to encourage education for girls, enable them to express themselves and give them a voice within their families and society. It can help girls gain respect for their bodies and develop self-esteem while also building on their inter-personal and leadership skills. Being a part of a team helps them form long lasting bonds and enables them to become cooperative team players. Moreover, engaging in a physically demanding sport like football challenges the stereotype that girls are weaker than boys and gives them a sense of achievement that they can attain any targets in life. Football, among other team sports, can teach women (as well as men) important lessons in life; cultural and racial differences dissolve and interaction with other team mates are done without coercion and exploitation. Moreover, each player is made conscious of the fact that everyone has to play within a framework of rules and penalties exist to sanction transgressions. Football has universal appeal that can bridge divides and promote peace among different sets of ideologies.

163637_123495037718351_1285495_nSignificant investments in girls’ education, be it by the aid of football or by spending directly on schools and colleges, can bring a positive change by overcoming gender discrimination and the vicious cycle of poverty. Better education opportunities will improve their access to economic opportunities which in turn will empower them. Their role in decision making related to marriage, health and to raise healthy children will be positively affected. Ultimately, such women will not only improve the lives of their children, but their contribution will also trickle down to their families and communities. Therefore, as the famous saying goes, educating a woman is like educating the entire nation.

All in all, it seems that we are proponents of a liberated Pakistan where women are given the same status as men, but in reality there is more that needs to be done in practice. Passing bills in the parliament and making public statements for the purpose of media coverage might silence the critics for a short duration but will eventually create unrest and a sense of insecurity and social exclusion within the masses as promises are not fulfilled. The concept of sports for development is a novel one and needs to be adapted within the social and cultural norms of our society with commitment and dedication. While speaking out in favor of more opportunities for girls, initiatives such as these are excellent examples to educate and empower them.

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About Malik Riaz Hai Naveed

MRHN means Malik Riaz Hai Naveed. He is the founder, webmaster and Chief-Editor of FootballPakistan.Com and came up with the idea to start a pakistani football related website back in 2001.

From that time on he and his team changed pakistani football and spread the word worldwide. A side from football he is a german liberal politician.

10 comments

  1. Sardar Naveed Haider Khan

    Great Article.Very well written & speak of true facts.Appreciate.Kindly note the changes made in the 9th National Women Championship in Lahore.We witnessed excellent display of Football by our players & they received tremendous Response from the public & Media.

    • Mr sardar Naveed Haider Khan with due respect disagree with your thought of tremendous response from media.If media had given them tremendous response then the tournement should have been broadcasted on tv’s but that didn’t happen,infact i only read news of final once on geo super and didn’t even saw the news in paper media here in Rawalpindi.My point is if we want to promot the game then electronic media must be brought in for live broadcast and PFF should have singed tv rights with either of two popular sports channel.Only then we will be able to uplift interest of game among masses

      • There is a lot to be done for football. PFF needs to buck up their game and improve even further.

  2. Dear fellows, I always lose my head whenever i see a girl saying “we are not given equal rights now a days”. It is true because they are actually given more rights. The story was true if in the past, but I can tell you several stories when my merit was ignored in the favor of special women quota (in education especially). If you see rate of football progress in last few years, it is same for men and women.
    Our current low level for women specific activities are due to our women and the past negligence. Here I will add too humble facts:
    1. Most of the public parks have family (more accurately women) time for 2 to 3 hours daily while they are also free to visit at others time. I believe there is no special permission. You know any?
    2. Most of our women play football in shorts and claim they feel social obstacles in football. Dears this stigma is due to shorts not due to sports. Just look at Iran, Malaysia and Indonesian women who are much better than us and play in full sleeves, trouser and even scarfs.
    I am young and might be thinking one sided but I have suffered at times because of women.
    I DEMAND EQUAL RIGHTS FOR MEN.

  3. 100 % Agreed wIth Mr. Mubashar Rehman, This Girl still in Complex, and this of her article i think belongs to a part of Local Fame,.and i found something amazing that she is referencing Malala (the one) which is a Biggest Controversial Girl of Pakistan Every Body Knows about her. so please think before u refer any1. y we have 2 memorized that we are muslim we have some limitations . if u want 2 wear shots then convert dont be so Libral .

    • Ahsan khan, I know this girl , she is not in complex or anything. I am a football player I know what is she talking about. And they were not kids from whom they lost in lahore, they are professional futsal players who represted pakistan in Jordan. On the other hand talking about shorts , it her choice. Mostly girls were tight under there shorts dont be so judgmental when you guys dont know anything.

    • Live and let live!

  4. or excuse me madam nashukra pan to choro ye batao abhi ap ne ek Team banai green chaddi k nam se apko chaddi pehenne ka shoq he ap kamiabi fame k chakar me ye tak bhul gai k ap muslim ho jab behayi karogi to agy kesy barhogi dosri larkia iran malysia etc b to muslims hen wo b to khelti hen but they know their limit ap lums ki choti bachio se har k agai sari international players thien ap log jo opportunity mili uska kya kia phir ap bat karti ho k PFF support nahi karta , kuch krke dikhao to apko pull karega federation ap log bacho se har jati ho .aj kal faishion ban chuka he awam kare khud sara bojh government pe dal de. esi tarhan ap log karo kush nahi sab federation pe dal do.

    • 1. LUMS is not a PFF backed event. 2. It was a Futsal event and NOT football, they lost to a pro futsal team and not a football team.
      3. The team registered privately and self-financed their team. It had a few international players from 4 separate cities and had never played futsal as a team.
      4. Reason why this country is also going down is because of you douche bags spilling out such comments.
      5. YOU are the kind because of whom the freedom of movement and pursuit of their dreams is restricted in sports and elsewhere.
      6. Do you know how many international matches or tournaments they’ve played? Do you know how many semi-finals they’ve played? Do you know this player who you’re so openly expressing your judgmental views about has scored international winning goals for the country? Do you know the goal keeper who played futsal with our girls’ team is the Best goal keeper in South Asia?
      No, you clearly don’t.
      7. Your only concern should be how they perform when they represent your country in an international “football” event where they are equally capable of facing any competition given adequate training and exposure!

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