Inspiration

Girls Kick Ice in Karakoram

Although involvement of women in sports is highly visible in developed countries, Pakistan is also not behind; focus on women in sports has increased considerably in recent years. More and more women are coming forward and participating in competitions at national as well as international level. Our female players are breaking stereotypes and bringing pride to the nation.
Recently, the annual winter sports week was held in Hunza between January 17-23, 2022. The Winterlude event was a true example of women empowerment as an overwhelming number of female players participated in the event. Air Commodore (R) Shahid Nadeem, former Secretary Winter Sports Federation, Gilgit Baltistan spearheaded the organization of the event. “We initiated the training and within three years we have been able to conduct the first national games in this area,” he briefed. The Winter Sports Federation sponsored training of coaches belonging to different areas. The competent coach Liaqat, who was trained through the Federation’s support, taught both boys and girls. These trainees then trained other young players to get more teams into ice hockey from different villages like Kamaris, Shishkat, Passu, Yasin, Khalti, Chupursun, Shimshal, Hussaini, etc., which eventually participated in the championship. 
Apart from the skiing and figure skating, ice hockey (an unconventional winter sport in the  Pakistani context) remained significant in capturing the interest of spectators because of the thrilling competitions. Ice hockey competitions were particularly fascinating for spectators as it is generally associated with countries in the northern hemisphere and not played, or popular, in Pakistan. However, that is not the case anymore. In 2018, the first-ever match of ice hockey in Pakistan was held in Naltar. Since then, the gaming demography has shifted its focus towards the game with players from different age groups of boys and even girls. An ice hockey team consists of six players, each equipped with ice skates and hockey sticks to control and shoot on an ice rink. The team with maximum goals is declared the winner. 
National Ice Hockey Championship, 2022 in Ghulkin, Gojal, Hunza, comprised of sixteen boys’ teams and five girls’ teams. The fervent girls and boys were motivated by the cheering crowd. The friendly rivalry in an icy environment was something worth experiencing. In the girls’ event, team Ghulkin won the National Ice Hockey Championship against Altit SCARF. It was an unimaginable achievement for the girls to participate in a national level ice hockey championship but their incredible confidence is proof of their determination and belief in themselves. This competition is surely a stepping-stone for our women and in future we will see our women in other such unconventional sports as well.
The Canadian High Commissioner, Wendy Gilmour, not only attended but also sponsored the event. She also acted as a referee in one of the matches between two local girls’ ice hockey teams. In an interview she said, “It is encouraging to see young people playing ice hockey and the local community members supporting them to learn the game. We provided some small modest support for the teams that have come here, particularly to support girls’ teams to participate.” 
People from all over Hunza came to watch the event. Teams from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh, Azad Jammu and Kashmir, and Punjab also participated.  Food stalls were set up featuring traditional, delectable food and provided a welcoming ambience at the same time. Ghulkin welcomed everyone and the whole community left no stone unturned in organizing a spectacular event. 120 volunteers took active part as support workers. Teams were looked after by the locals during their stay in Hunza. 
Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) has always provided opportunities for women in all walks of life, especially sports. The GB girls aim to represent Pakistan at the Olympics. Noorema of team Ghulkin encourages her fellow team members by expressing her keen desire to achieve excellence. She says, “It’s true that we became the national champions but we hope to represent Pakistan in Olympics in future.” Achievements and ambitions such as these pave the way for other women. The most encouraging fact is that the community played an impressive role and these girls’ families were supportive of their participation in ice hockey. The families aspired to help fulfill the dreams of their girls that people thought unachievable. 
“Pakistani women have so much potential to pursue sports as their profession. If they get such platforms they can represent Pakistan on the international forum,” said Shaiyna, one of the players. There is no doubt that Pakistani women can achieve anything they set their minds to. Lately, a young under-12 girls’ team for ice polo has also been successfully launched. The former sports heroes from the region have been a source of major motivation for the girls of GB. The region has been successful in producing a number of talented sportswomen and aspires to produce even more. In this regard, efforts are being made to arrange women tournaments in different sports at district level despite numerous challenges.



Certainly, such healthy women activities are contributing in moulding the image of Pakistan as a progressive and peaceful state. Moreover, it will help in promoting the tourism sector when international teams are invited to participate. However, talent hunting is imperative so that women from all parts of the country can have the opportunity to unveil their abilities. Flexible training platforms must be introduced for young girls to freely enroll, participate and train, hence increasing the chances of inspiring more girls. HH


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