The recently concluded Islamabad Women Swimming Association (IWSA) summer swimming gala was contested with enthusiasm, appreciated by not only the participants but also followers of women swimming in Pakistan.
Over 25 girls from the city competed in nine events but, more than the medals, they were competing for pride, to make a stand for themselves after being largely neglected. Wardah Fatima, the fifteen-year-old swimmer who bagged three bronze medals in the 12th National Women’s Junior Swimming Championship in Karachi earlier this year, took home gold medals in all over-12 events but spoke of the lack of opportunity and help available.
“When my sister and I were younger, our mother would take us to the edge of a pool and make us hold on to the skirting and kick until we got tired,” Wardah told The Express Tribune. “We are completely self-trained with no help from anywhere.”
Wardah realised that she was capable of a good show after competing in the first of the three national events that she has taken part in, explaining that despite being aware of the limited scope for women in the sport, hard work and a strong resolve allowed her to pursue something she loves doing.
“There are odds against women everywhere,” she said, pointing to the lack of facilities and funding. The swimming pool at the Sports Complex is open between from 6am to 10pm. However, female swimmers can only access it between 4 and 6pm.
“I have tuition at 4pm and due to that, I only have an hour each day to swim and rush to my academy. Also, we don’t have proper lockers or changing facilities which is a huge drawback for us.
“People around me tell me I have no future. They even question my character because I wear a swimsuit. But I’ve proved myself by not giving up.”
While Rana Seerat, member of the Federal Board of Revenue, presented certificates to the winners, and the praise was not only restricted to the participants but also the mothers who encouraged the effort, ensuring the girls took part in a sport that sees limited female participation in the country.
Meanwhile, the IWSA President Parveen Qadir Agha confirmed that a survey of swimming facilities in Islamabad had started and the association had plans on improving what was on offer currently – providing they have available funds.
Published In The Express Tribune, June 27th, 2012.
Correction: Earlier, the word “association” was misspelled as “associated” in the first paragraph. The error has been rectified.
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