Women play football to celebrate Global Day of Sport for Development and Peace

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Pakistan’s female National Football Team and young girls from Rawalpindi’s Young Rising Stars took to the playing fields to show that sport is a powerful tool for developing confidence

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ISLAMABAD –  Sport is a powerful vehicle for social inclusion, gender equality and youth empowerment, and promote a culture of dialogue across boundaries.

This was exactly the aim behind friendly football matches held in Islamabad, by Serena Hotels and UN Women (the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women), to commemorate the UN’s International Day of Sports for Development and Peace. The Football Tournament 2016 was this year’s first football initiative taken by Serena Hotels to offer a platform for women to display their sporting skills.

Young women and girls from Pakistan’s National Football Team, Rawalpindi’s Young Rising Stars, and Ambassadors, Diplomats and UN dignitaries participated in the friendly matches played at Total football facility, the only FIFA certified football pitch in Islamabad.

The 6-a-side football tournament between four teams, gave a chance to young females and participating players to get together in a spirit of commemoration and hope. The event gave the uplifting message that football is no longer a game dominated by boys and men. Pakistan’s female National Football Team and the young girls from Rawalpindi’s Young Rising Stars took to the playing fields to show that sport is a powerful tool for developing confidence, team spirit, skills and leadership, and for spreading messages of peace and driving social change.

“Sport really has changed who I am. The person that I am today is only because of the fact that I play sport. Everything that I have learned, all the memories that I have, all the friend I have made, and everything else in my life, and even the future, it’s all because I play sport. Somehow, luckily I ended up in sports” Ms. Sana Mahmud, former captain of the Pakistan’s female National Football Team said.

Honorary guests at the International Day of Sports for Development and Peace event included Ms. Brigitta Blaha (Ambassador of Austria), Ms. Ina Lepel (Ambassador of Germany), Mr. Heather Cruden (High Commissioner of Canada), Ms. Helle Nielsen (Chargé d’Affaires of Denmark) and Mr. Neil Buhne (UN Resident Coordinator) who welcomed the opportunity to play alongside the female stars and display his football skills.

“In Pakistan, one of the key challenges for women and girls in sports is the lack of safe public spaces making it difficult to find places to exercise or play without facing harassment or even worse. UN Women, through one of its initiatives to combat violence against women aims to create greater awareness and implementation of legislation and adoption of practices that ensure that women’s rights to safe spaces is safeguarded and that urban and local planning bodies take this into account”, Jamshed Kazi, Country Representative of UN Women Pakistan said.

“Sport creates confidence, a healthy lifestyle, team spirit and breaks down gender stereotypes of girls as being weak and physically inactive- investing in enabling opportunities for women and girls to participate in sports is investing in a healthier, equitable and more productive and harmonious nation” Mr. Kazi said.

In his closing remarks, Aziz Boolani, CEO of Serena Hotels said: “Sports have the potential to bring about great personal and social changes through better health, fostering gender equity, strengthening and unifying communities, improving education outcomes, and building skills that promote employment and economic development. We are proud to collaborate with UN Women to raise awareness about inclusion in sports and celebrate development and peace through sports.”

The Serena Sports Diplomacy Initiative encourages and promotes healthy activities through interaction amongst various segments of the society to enhance social well-being and cultural development. Earlier, Serena Hotels has hosted the prestigious President of Pakistan Gold Medal Golf Tournament, the President Gold Cup International Squash Championship, the Serena Hotels – Chief of the Air Staff International Squash Championship and annual polo, cricket and invitational golf tournaments.

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