“There are always negative things. Over here sports is not taken as an industry. We have to face a lot of problems. When you lose after playing, that is a different thing but when people start creating hurdles – that starts to pinch you.”
Nazia Parveen is the first Pakistani female climber who remains unbeatable to date. She started rock climbing in 2010. To this day, she has won first prize in 32 consecutive competitions in rock climbing. She even defeated men four times and became the first Pakistani woman to represent Pakistan at international level in rock climbing. Originally from FATA, Bajaur Agency, the 27 year old is also a paraglider. Nazia completed her M.phil in International Relations (IR) with 3.94 CGPA from NDU Islamabad.
DNA: What hurdles did you face, growing up as a girl?
Nazia Parveen: It is natural as it is a male dominant society. Nobody accepts that Females come forward and that they go out of their houses. When they are not accepted in outdoor activities how can they be accepted in extreme sports? So when I went for the sport for the first time there was a lot of resistance, even from my family. But if you are passionate and doing something in a positive way, family’s resistance also diminishes gradually and obviously even people start to accept you. Being a female you will feel resistance all the time. It’s not possible for me to even move from one city to another freely. But I think if you are positive and if you are looking at the positive side that gives you the courage.
DNA: With time did you see any change in people’s attitude?
NP: A lot! Initially, even my own family was like what is this? Girls are going out in jeans.
When you go out, in the beginning people would be suspicious. Even my neighbours would be like where is she going? But with the passage of time when they see that you are succeeding, your achievements are increasing, media is supporting you, a change in people’s attitude starts to come.
In the beginning they wouldn’t accept it so easily. Now the same people appreciate me and they make me go for it. They even come to watch me and also send their children. Especially the females, they encourage their daughters. They tell me to also take their kids with me. So the trend is changing gradually.
DNA: Did you ever feel demotivated or discouraged?
NP: Many times! There are always negative things. Over here sports is not taken as an industry. We have to face a lot of problems. When you lose after playing, that is a different thing but when people start creating hurdles – that starts to pinch you. I went for a competition, at Alpine club; it’s a government body which is responsible for competitions. I won consecutive two national level competitions.
Next time they told me to sign a written bond that I will only play their competition next time. If you are getting to play 25-30 competitions yearly, including locals, how can you sign a bond that you will not play them? I said fine I will if you sign me a bond in return that you will give me training sessions. They created a lot of issues over that. They didn’t let me play. Next time when they held national competition, they conducted both under-15 and above-15 category for boys but cancelled above-15 category for girls. This was unfair with all the seniors. Fine they had personal grudges with me but what about those other females who were practicing a lot and were highly motivated? That all went in vain! When you go internationally, Pakistani players don’t succeed. It’s not because they are not good players. It is the type of policies we have that create issues. I think until it is not taken as an industry, until there is not a transparent body, such problems will remain.
DNA: Why do you think it is not taken as an industry?
NP: I think there is no investment as such; neither international nor national. And in places where there is investment, like cricket, there is plenty of exploitation. I think it’s all about government. If it can’t facilitate, at least it can sponsor. If locals can invite international climbers, so why not government?
Government can keep exchange programs. Make training centres especially for the females. 300-400 are training in every competition for national level. There is a huge scope. The government just needs to invest which it never will. It has very low interest. Even government bodies, what are they producing? There is the Alpine club, Pakistan Sports Board but there is more paperwork and less outcome. You can see there are so many potential players but nobody is letting them play. Whatever the players are doing is through their individual effort.
“We definitely want a strong team for girls that can play internationally. We should at least be able to represent. When you participate in competitions your skill level increases a lot because you take things seriously. You practice accordingly and automatically your skills start to improve.”
DNA: What are you doing to promote sports as an individual?
NP: I am running two clubs. I am their vice president. I even conduct different sessions for females and motivational speeches in universities for females. My focus is to give free training to those with financial issues. They already have a lot of hurdles, so I don’t want them to have any economic hurdle. There was a lot of change in people’s attitude towards the sports. Especially when parents saw that females are coming forward. They encourage their daughters too. Female participants have increased significantly. When I started there were only 10-20 girls. Now just in our club there are 300 – 400 girls. Even in competitions girls outnumber boys. They have gained confidence. The universities that we go to, we start getting registrations from the girls there. People get to know that such a sport also exists.
DNA: What is the attitude of the boys when you play?
NP: Once there was a meeting of the participants. There was a fight between boys. One said to another, “You shut up. You were defeated by girls.”
Twice there was an open challenge on 23rd March. When I entered for that competition, the boys said that if she is playing we won’t play.
DNA: As a trainer, what potential do you see in young females?
NP: There is a lot of potential. Initially they are reluctant but once they start climbing I see a lot of talent.
The only difference is that maybe they don’t get sufficient encouragement from their males at home or there is not enough family support. Maybe that is an issue.
We take the trainees to family spots where family can have a picnic and girls can practice climbing. I think parents want security for their girls. If they are provided with an environment according to our culture, I think everything is fine.
DNA: As a change maker what are your future plans?
NP: Pakistan is called a paradise for rock climbing and paragliding. Three world records of paragliding have been made in Pakistan.
Unfortunately we haven’t even participated in any paragliding world cup to date. I wish that I would be able to go for it. And for rock climbing, I want females to come forward. There are rock climbing competitions throughout the year. All we want is a good sponsor.
We definitely want a strong team for girls that can play internationally. We should at least be able to represent. When you participate in competitions your skill level increases a lot because you take things seriously. You practice accordingly and automatically your skills start to improve.
So I wish that a day comes that females play internationally so a positive image of Pakistan – especially of females – comes forward and that people accept it and appreciate it.
I just want to change the stereotypical image of Pakistani women as bechari aurat (oppressed women). I want Pakistan to come forward as a capable nation.
DNA: What would you like to say to Pakistani females?
NP: You are 52% of the state so you should recognise your ability. You should know how to balance your life with your aims. You only live once so follow your heart and your passion.