ISLAMABAD: It's been years in the making, but the ball is finally in their court.
A study conducted by the Women’s Sports Foundation in 2016 noted that by the time girls turned 14, they were dropping out of sports at twice the rate seen in boys.
This, and other related data, has been at the helm of several sports campaigns run by mega brands to encourage more girls and women to take up sports.
In Pakistan, the problem becomes manifold when one factors in other conditions such as limited facilities, and complete lack of support and encouragement.
However, there are a number of athletes who have defied the norms by not only joining sports, but excelling in their fields, too.
Here are a few who brought the glory home and put Pakistan on the world map:
Captain of Pakistan’s women’s football team and the first Pakistani footballer to be signed by an international football club, Hajra Khan is steadily becoming one of the most recognizable sports personalities from Pakistan. Khan holds three world records in football and is an advocate for sports' reforms in the country, too.
Zainab Abbas was Pakistan’s first women sports reporter to cover the World Cup as well as the Pakistan Super League matches this year. Abbas broke through a world that was dominated by men, going on to secure a place as a top cricket commentator and sports analyst.
As a former captain of Pakistan’s women's cricket team, Sana Mir has not only won a number of matches for Pakistan but has also been a game-changer for the sport, in general. When she's not setting the standards on field, she participates in campaigns calling for more girls to join sports.
A member of Pakistan’s women’s football team, Karishma Ali holds the distinct honour of being one of Forbes Asia’s 25 most influential people under 25. The 22-year-old from Chitral made it to the prestigious list for using her celebrity status to establish the Chitral Women's Sports Club which she has been actively involved in for the past two years.
A multi-faceted athlete, Sana Mahmud us the captain of Pakistan’s national basketball team and was previously the captain of the football team as well. Mahmud began dominating tournaments for both sports at the age of 15 at the national level. She has been an outspoken critic of the dire state of sports in the country.
Palwasha Bashir is a badminton champion with enough medals to prove it. Since 2009, Bashir has won several accolades including the National Champion title in both women's singles and doubles and a bronze medal at the 2010 South Asian Games held in Dhaka. Bashir has represented Pakistan at a number of international sports events and continues to be an active player, a decade after her first win.