Women's Rights

Sportswoman defies social barriers to promote archery in Peshawar

By Muhammad Shakil

Sara Khan teaches archery to both male and female students at her sports club in Peshawar. [Muhammad Shakil]

Archery instructor Sara Khan teaches students how to hold a bow and arrow in Peshawar in November. [Muhammad Shakil]

Sara Khan teaches students how to aim and shoot an arrow. [Muhammad Shakil]

Sara Khan trains students on bow and arrow techniques in Peshawar in November. [Muhammad Shakil]

Sara Khan teaches a young student to how to use a bow and arrow in Peshawar in November. [Muhammad Shakil]

Archery trainer Sara Khan observes a student during a training session in November in Peshawar. [Muhammad Shakil]

Archery students in Peshawar examine the target after training in November. [Muhammad Shakil]

PESHAWAR -- Sara Khan, a sportswoman in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), is pursuing her ambition of promoting sports in a conservative and male dominated society by running an archery club in Peshawar.

The Pakhtunkhwa Archery Club, which was established in January 2017 at the Pakistan Sports Board Coaching Centre Qayyum Sports Complex, has already produced players who have excelled at the national level.

They include Israr ul Haq, who won fifth at the 6th National Archery Championship, which took place in January 2018 in Peshawar.

The club is a first of its kind in Pakistan: both male and female archers receive training from a female coach.


Sarah Khan trains players at her archery club in Peshawar in November. [Muhammad Shakil]

A role model for sportswomen

"My passion to earn a name in sports as a female was the driving force that resulted in establishing an archery club, the first of its kind that was run by a female," Khan, who teaches sports at Agricultural University Public School and College in Peshawar, told Pakistan Forward in November.

Khan said she "accepted the challenging task of training youth in a game that is totally new for the people in KP".

"I was selected by the [Women's] National Cricket Team, but my family buckled to social pressure and kept me from pursuing my passion," she explained. "However, despite the hurdles and setbacks, I have been fighting since then to be a role model for sportswomen of KP."

Israr's fifth place finish at the national championship represented "an honour for a club that is in its initial phase and is run on a self-help basis by the players", Khan said, noting that the players cover their own expenses, including equipment purchases.

She urged the government to support organisations such as hers, which work to hone "the innate capabilities of youth in sports" for the betterment of Pakistan.

The price of archery gear prevents many players from taking up the sport, she noted, adding that a bow used in international competitions costs about 350,000 Rs. ($2,822).

Making an impact on society

Twenty players, ranging in age from 12 to 45 years, including five women and one disabled person, train at Khan's club.

"The presence of female players in the club defines the courage and commitment of our womenfolk," she said.

"The commitment and unflinching dedication of Sara Khan towards sports inspired me to join the club as an amateur," said Akbar Azam, a retired government official.

"Each and every player of the club is impressed by her resolve, which is unthinkable in a society over-burdened with conservatism and social limitations," he told Pakistan Forward.

"Running a club as a woman in the conservative atmosphere of KP is itself a feat that deserves appreciation from society," said Waqas Ahmad Khalil, the general secretary of the club and a sportsman representing the KP Police Department.

"The club is a beacon for those women who are confident of their abilities, believe in themselves and possess the courage to compete and excel in a male dominated society," he told Pakistan Forward.

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