“It was a difficult decision to make, but my family has been very supportive. I am looking forward to a great learning experience,” said Rozina, a hockey player from Balochistan.
Rozina is one of the 10 under-16 women hockey players from Pakistan who will leave for the United States on Monday (today) for a 10-day programme funded by the US Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA). The players will be chaperoned by two female coaches.
The group was hosted for a pre-departure orientation session at the Kinnaird College for Women on Sunday.
Other players, too, are excited about making the most of the trip, learning about their American counterparts and networking.
They come from cities including Azad Kashmir, Quetta, Faisalabad and Gujranwala.
Addressing the gathering at Kinnaird College, Rozina seemed confident.
“Girls are in no way inferior to boys,” she said.
Natalia Pervaiz, another member of the team, said she hoped that the team would represent Pakistan well.
“We have been working hard for four years. We now hope to learn state-of-the-art techniques in the US and to return home with a sense of achievement. I just hope we come back as better players,” said Sidra Ayub, another team member.
Eight of these girls said they were the first in their families to take up sports as a potential career.
Lydia Barraza, press attache at the US Consulate General, told The Express Tribune, that the particular initiative aimed at increasing Pakistani women’s participation in sports. She said she was quite happy to see that the group was diverse and that the girls came from all corners of Pakistan.
“They have never travelled to the States. So it will be an experience for them and for their American counterparts to interact with people from a different culture with different customs.”
The young players would play field hockey with their American counterparts in Washington DC, where they will also work with their peers on developing teamwork, health, and leadership skills.
They will also travel to North Carolina to participate in field hockey clinics, activities on sports and disability rights and community volunteerism at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro.
Bob Keith, Cultural Affairs officer at the US Consulate General, congratulated the young athletes.
He said the programme would be beneficial for both sides as “you play field hockey and we play ice hockey”.
He said the ‘Empowering Women and Girls through Sports’ initiative comprised three pillars: sports envoys (American athletes who travelled overseas); sports visitors (youth athletes and coaches who travelled to the United States); and the US Department of State and ESPN-W Global Sports Mentoring Programme.
Pakistan Hockey Federation President Qasim Zia congratulated the players and thanked the US Embassy for the initiative.
He said, “It is seldom that women in Pakistan are allowed to travel alone, especially for career.
I am happy and proud of these parents for letting their daughter travel. They will make their parents and the country proud.”
The concluding ceremony was marked with distribution of souvenirs among the players and the guests.
The group members are: Allah Rakhi Amna, Sidra Ayub, Razia Kausar, Zeenat Sharif, Bushra Zafar, Mehwish Raffique, Natalia Pervez, Sonia Ashraf, Gulnaz Parveen, Rozina, Sidra Iqbal and Parveen Gill.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 17th, 2013.
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