Beating gender stereotypes in Pakistan with football

Date: Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Hajra Khan during UN Women Pakistan's celebration of the UN International Day of Sport for Development and Peace on 10 April, in Islamabad, Pakistan. Photo: UN Women: Atif Mansoor Kahn

Hajra Khan made history when she became the first Pakistani female footballer to sign a contract to play abroad in the Maldives National Women’s League in 2014. In a society where gender stereotypes and cultural barriers prevent girls from participating in football, this is not a small win.

 In addition to the lack of opportunities to hone their talent by playing internationally and safe spaces to train regularly, female players grapple with daily sexism. “No matter how skilled or talented, every female [player] knows her appearance will be judged as she plays her sport. She may win, she may lose, but her looks will be assessed,” Ms. Khan explains.

While there has been an increase in the participation of women in sport in the recent years, Ms. Khan stresses on the need to transform social norms that define women as fragile, less capable and relegates them to the role of home-makers, and for increased investment to uplift the standard of the game. “In order for women to have true equality in sport, the media will need to begin to recognize women for their athletic ability and not their looks…”

When asked how football has shaped who she is today, Ms. Khan says, “It's helped me gain respect for my body and develop self-esteem, and to believe that I have everything I need within me to become the best possible version of myself.”

To read the full story, visit UN Women's regional website for Asia and the Pacific.