Creeping Talibanisation following the five-year rule of an orthodox government have barred nearly all doors on women’s sports in the Frontier province. Girls who have talent and inclination towards games and whose parents also have no objection are frustrated as segregation is almost total and there are no exclusive facilities for women to pursue any outdoor activity.
Faiza, a talented athlete, came to Qayyum Stadium for practice after her teachers convinced her parents to allow her to participate in sports. However the sight of some male players and a few spectators offended her parents who had come to drop her there. They left the stadium in anger along with their daughter.
This is not just one example when a female player has been discouraged to play in a mixed environment. In the conservative culture of North-West Frontier Province where it is becoming even harder in some districts for girls to go out for education, it takes a lot of courage and parents’ support for a girl to go out and participate in sports.
“We have a hard time convincing parents to allow their daughters to play but conservative parents don’t like their daughters to play in a stadium or in an open environment,” says sports coach Najma Naz.
The MMA-led government had encouraged segregation, by setting up a separate women’s sports directorate in 2004 to motivate girls to take part in sports in an exclusive environment. But nothing materialised as Talibanisation grew by the day putting the security of sports girls at risk. A team of girls coming from Kohat for a sports event in Peshawar were stopped by militants at a checkpoint at Darra Adamkhel and asked the purpose of their travel. “We told them we were going to attend a wedding in Peshawar,Â” recounted one of the team from Kohat.
“We have to keep a low profile for the sake of security of our sportswomen,” said a sports department official who demanded separate sports facilities in one complex if we wanted the development of sports among women.
Under the present arrangement there is a fixed hour for girls to practice in the stadium, which is just not enough, says coach Najma Naz.
The women’s sports directorate is not in a position to hold any national or inter-provincial sports event as it does not have any stadium, play-ground or courts for girls. During the inter- regional tournament, the directorate had to request the University of Peshawar for its grounds for the athletics, volleyball and cricket matches. The players were also accommodated in the university’s hostel. “For the cricket tournament we had to request the Lady Griffith Girls School for its playground. It was small and not suitable for a match but we had no option,” admitted a sports directorate official.
An ADP (2007-2008) scheme costing Rs100 million proposed setting up of a Women Sports Complex at Peshawar where girls could practice in a women-friendly environment. Only Rs5 million were approved for the scheme but it could not materialise as no state land was available for the complex. However the scheme has since been revised to include the cost of land and awaits approval.
Meanwhile the project to set up a women’s sports complex is being held up for unknown reasons. The provincial sports, culture, archaeology and tourism department despite having stadiums and two sports complexes is unconcerned. The Hayatabad Sports Complex has been lying unused for the last one decade. It could be allowed to be used as an exclusive playground for women. But this possibility too is not being considered.