This Girl Is Literally Kicking Out Gender Stereotypes in Pakistan

In July, when Germany was still in the running for the most recent EURO Cup, Pakistani football player Hajra Khan rooted them on enthusiastically.

"I really hope they become the winner of the EURO Cup!" she said.

She has always been a huge fan of German football. On top of being the first Pakistani female football player to sign a contract to play abroad in the Maldives National Women's League in 2014, Khan also became the first Pakistani female football player to try out for three professional German clubs.

Now, she is the captain of Pakistan's all-female national football team. In a society where women are normally barred from participating in activities like football, this is no a small feat. She recently sat down with UN Women to elaborate.

"It's not easy for women in Pakistan to pursue their dreams because of social pressures and unacceptability from people around us," Khan said. "There's still prejudice and that resistance regarding women, not only on female football but in various activities."

According to a 2011 poll by the Thomson Reuters Foundation Poll, Pakistan is the third most dangerous country for women in the world. On top of the violence against women ranging from honor killings to domestic violence, poor and uneducated women struggle daily for basic rights, recognition, and respect.

That, along with the sexism that female football players deal with daily, are issues Khan is actively working to resolve within Pakistani culture.

"I believe it is monumentally important as there’s a general lack of support for girls who want to do more than just get married and become homemakers. Girls face many obstacles, including lack of access to quality and affordable education and they face cultural barriers," Khan said.

While women have been gaining increased traction in sports across the board — from the Rio Olympics, to the most recent praise-filled Nike ad featuring Serena Williams — there is more work to be done. Khan stresses that media can play a large role in the continued effort.

"In order for women to have true equality in sport, the media will need to begin to recognize women for their athletic ability and not their looks," Khan said.

Khan hopes to be an outspoken advocate for the growth of women's sports in Pakistan. She's currently pursuing a bachelor's degree in business and management from London School of Economics. She also has a AFC 'C' License Coaching Certificate, and plans on launching a grassroots football training academy for female players in the future.

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Photo Credit: Facebook/Hajra Khan