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‘Fair Play for Girls’ campaign uses cricket to promote development

©UNICEF Pakistan/2005/ Zaidi
The Yellow team bats at the Fair Play for Girls match in Lahore, Pakistan.

By Julia Spry-Leverton

Fair Play for Girls uses women’s cricket to promote key development messages in Pakistan for girls’ education, equality, and access to sports and recreation.

LAHORE, Pakistan, 23 September 2005 – On a cool, grey day in September, the voices of thousands of schoolgirls singing filled a packed sports stadium.

The words of the lively song, sung in the Urdu language, ran as follows:
“Our optimum goal is to get education and take the lead in sports for personality development.
”Education and games together give rise to a new spirit in us!
”We must all share and breathe the lively spirit of education and sports.”

The songs signalled the start of a day-long cricket match between two women’s teams – an inaugural event in the ‘Fair Play for Girls’ campaign organized by UNICEF and the Pakistan Cricket Board. The match illustrates the tremendous recent progress in overcoming barriers that have prevented girls in Pakistan from playing sports in public.

Both teams at the inaugural match were made up of aspirants for the national cricket team. Their eagerness was evident as they played their hearts out on the pitch.

© UNICEF Pakistan/2005/ Zaidi
Prize-giving at the Fair Play for Girls cricket match - the UNICEF trophy is awarded to the Red team.

During an interval (break in play), two novice schoolgirl teams faced off for a UNICEF trophy. Sixteen-year-old Mariam Mamoon was captain of one of the teams. “Boys think girls can’t play cricket and act as if it’s only their game,” she said. “I play to let them know we can play and win as well.

“I hope I’ll be a part of Pakistan’s international women’s team in the future – I’d love to be!”

A commitment to Pakistan’s girls

The event here in Pakistan is part of an effort across South Asia, sponsored by the Asian Cricket Council and UNICEF, which seeks to use the game of cricket as a way to promote the rights of girls to education and to play.

The success of the effort in Pakistan is demonstrated by progress towards the realization of both of these rights.

“In a country where we have just begun to look into gender issues, this ‘Fair Play for Girls’ match is a positive step –  a great beginning!” said Chaudry Parvez Elahi, Chief Minister of the Punjab, at the prize-giving ceremony.

©UNICEF Pakistan/2005/ Zaidi
In the packed stands of the stadium, an audience of 12,000 girls – many sporting sun visors and fans featuring the Meena cartoon character – thrilled to the cricket.

“Holding this match will serve as a turning point in the field of sports, since cricket will now become a frontline place for women. The slogan of ‘Fair Play for Girls’, with its link to the right to education, will become a guiding force in our pursuit of equality for females.

“The days have gone when the girl is given less importance than the boy. In our vision the girl and the boy have to walk together like equal citizens on the path to development and progress.” 

UNICEF Representative in Pakistan Omar Abdi also spoke at the event, noting the recent $4 million contribution of the Norwegian government to education in Pakistan. Mr. Abdi praised the infectious energy and enthusiasm of the 12,000-strong audience of girls.

The stadium had been decorated with banners and streamers featuring Meena – a popular cartoon character developed by UNICEF, and a symbol of what girls can achieve given equal opportunities. Mr Abdi said, “I am sure all of you here today will go away remembering how Meena says ‘Educating girls makes them successful in life’ and ‘A girl who plays sport remains healthy and sound.’”


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