The Story of Chitral Women’s Sports Club

The Story of Chitral Women’s Sports Club


In Chitral, a mountainous region in the north
of Pakistan, girls are rarely given the chance to play football. It is a fiercely conservative part of the
world, where gender stereotyping is rife and where sport is generally a privilege enjoyed
exclusively by boys. But attitudes are slowly changing, thanks
largely to the work done by Chitral Women’s Sports Club, a team formed in 2018 with the
aim of “breaking gender stereotypes in order to empower girls in their hometown through
sport”. There are now 100 girls involved in the football
camp, training and playing matches at 3500 metres above sea level. And those numbers are increasing year by year:
in 2018 there were 60 girls, all of whom were encouraged to start playing by the club’s
founder, Karishma Ali. At just 21-years-old, she is a trailblazer,
a role model for young girls across Pakistan. Karishma was the first woman from Chitral
to represent the country as a footballer at national and international level, having started
playing at the age of 15. “In 2016 I got selected to represent Pakistan
in the international Jubilee Games and saw a post on Facebook saying I was the only girl
from Chitral playing football,” she tells Tifo. “I was proud, of course, but that got me
thinking that the population of women in Chitral is 221,515, yet I was the only girl playing
football.” Karishma set about changing that, offering
a chance for girls to play football, to access the required facilities, for no cost. The aim, she says, is to “physically and
mentally empower young girls using sports as a tool”. Those involved are often from underprivileged
families, brought up under the assumption that they would never play football, or any
other sport. Very few own football boots, and most have
only one pair of shoes, worn whether at home or at school or at a training session. Often, they are forced to borrow kit from
their brothers. Karishma intends to provide better facilities
and equipment, but for that Chitral Women’s Sports Club needs more funding. Progress is being made, though, awareness
raised, and the target eventually is to see some of the girls involved reach a professional
level. There has been opposition since Karishma founded
the club, some of it vocal. “Last year, when I shared my idea with different
people, they would usually make fun of me thinking that it was ridiculous to do something
like that in Chitral,” she says. “I’ve received much appreciation but more
than that, I’ve received a lot of hate. Some of the most extremist minded people started
social media campaigns against me which went on for months. I had to read messages like, ‘we will burn
you’ or ‘we will chop off your legs’. I hope that nobody ever has to face such vile
criticism. But my vision is much bigger than their hate
and their words didn’t break my spirits.” Karishma has gone on undeterred despite the
abuse, hopeful that her work at Chitral will play a part in the development of Pakistani
society. “When we give equal opportunities for women
as we do for men, I think it would definitely help boost the development process,” she
adds. “These women are going to contribute to
the economy, that’s what everybody needs to understand. I want to see more women in leadership positions. I want girls to have the freedom to choose
whatever they want to pursue in life without their families worrying ‘what will people
say’. I would love to see the whole family reputation
burden taken off the shoulders of girls. I want to see more girls in school and more
girls playing sports.” There is hope, too, that Chitral Women’s
Sports club can be a place of respite for the girls involved. Training sessions also act as a “safe space”,
a place for the girls to talk openly and freely without fear of judgement. The suicide rate amongst young people in Chitral
is high, and Karishma has emphasised the importance of mental health. It is about more than just sport. It is about allowing these girls to grow,
to build their self-esteem and confidence, to provide a sense of freedom. Chitral Women’s Sports Club hope, eventually,
to build a stadium and a training ground fit for professional sessions. “Nothing gives me more happiness and satisfaction
than seeing my girls playing freely, laughing and walking around carefree,” says Karishma. “I never believed in solo success. I believe I am successful when I make a positive
difference in other people’s lives. “I will keep working on improving the lives
of my girls. And I hope I am able to inspire others to
do the same.”

63 thoughts on “The Story of Chitral Women’s Sports Club

  1. Specially in Asia
    "Feel like cricket mafia won't allow football to grow because fear of cricket will take a back seat"

  2. you act as if Islam has no part in it, Islam denies girls/women of playing the sport, as well as other basic things boys get too, Islam is the most anti-feminist, anti-girl and anti-women shit out there.

    Islam is so heavily rooted in their societies that's it's fucked up rules and bullshit are relevant throughout all their countries, such as Pakistan, pretending that their just a little "sexist" with not letting girls play, is denying the underlining issue, stop lacking.

    And Stop Being So Self-Righteous
    , it's the worst thing about your channel, and it makes me want to unsubscribe.

  3. I am from Pakistan thanks tifo for your story, that really makes me happy 🙂 i hope one day you will do a video about football in pakistan… and how it is ruined by politics in this country

  4. Pakistan, as a nation, have always had incredible talent at their disposal. But they have been constantly ruined (and still are) by extreme levels of conservative attitude.
    Knowledge, good character, hard work, honesty & devotion to your purpose is what takes you forward, being conservative will only hold you back.

  5. Never thought I'd see a video about women's football and Pakistan. Good to see Pakistan finally developing in many areas such as tourism, safety, sports, gender equality etc after so many years of corruption and hardship. Great video!

  6. Please Hakkarigücü and the Founder Cemile Timur next.

    Not only must it been not so easy to convince the mostly conservative people in the region, It's also a great story because girls get a opportunity to study as well. 😀

  7. After moving to Pakistan from abroad, believe me when I say I won't be surprised if we have the best midfield in world football in 20 years, it's just the structure for development is atrocious and needs lots of work. Work that'll take 20 years.

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