Before and after: ‘Back with a new-found confidence’

Under-16 hockey players share their American experiences.

Hassan Naqvi June 30, 2013
Under-16 hockey players share their American experiences.


The biggest change that Sidra Ayub, one of the Under-16 hockey players who recently returned from an exchange programme in the US, notices in herself is “confidence”.  An unforgettable experience for her was meeting the two-time Olympic medallist figureskater Michelle Kwan.

Ayub shared her experiences on Saturday during a breakfast hosted by US Counsel General Nina Maria Fite for the 12-member delegation – 10 players and two coaches.

Ayub said Kwan had shared with them how sports had connected her with people across the globe. The programme, she feels, is “the first milestone” towards empowering women, particularly in sports in a country like Pakistan. “We were quite shy when we went to the United States and have returned confident,” she said.

Mehwish Raffique, another player, remains in awe of sports facilities available to college students in America. “Back home in Faisalabad, there is only one sports complex ... girls aren’t allowed to play there,” she said. She said she was impressed with the facilities offered at North Carolina State University’s Greensboro Campus.

Allah Rakhi Amna told The Express Tribune that the experience had been mutually beneficial. “It was a chance for us and our American counterparts to learn about each other’s culture and customs. We visited museums and historical places to learn about their culture and told them about our language, culture and customs,” said the athlete.

Fite discussed with the delegation their experience in the US and asked them about the problems (relating to gender discrimination, sports facilities and infrastructure) they face as young athletes in Pakistan. She said she would take up their problems with Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif.

The delegation’s visit to the US coincided with the 41st anniversary of Title IX, the landmark US law which afforded opportunity and equality for American women in sports and education.

The sportswomen had attended a discussion on the law.

They met with the representatives of the US Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs programme officers who administer exchange programmes in Pakistan. They also visited a District of Columbia public high school, School Without Walls, which offers an alternative to conventional teaching and learning.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 30th, 2013.


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