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Girls & Women

This Pakistani girl wants to break cultural barriers by competing in the Olympics

Chime for Change

Nothing can catch Simrah, especially when she's racing through the pool. She swims as if she was born a fish. She's unbeatable and has only been at it for a year! Simrah is from Pakistan and plans to one day represent her country at the Olympic games. When Simrah accomplishes her goal, she will join the ranks of other great female Pakistani athletes, a few of which are swimmers like her.

The names, faces and records of Anum Bandey, Rubab Raza, Kiran Khan and Mumtaz Ahmed are probably hanging on Samira’s wall, right next to her goal board.

Swimming against the current:

Swimming in Pakistan, like many other sports, is deemed unfeminine. In a culture where it is unacceptable for a woman to become an athlete, girls like Simrah are an anomaly.  Swimming is a particularly difficult sport to even practice, let alone perform competitively; the cut and revealing nature of the typical swimsuit can be at odds with acceptable decorum.

Pakistan’s first Olympic swimmer, Rubab Raza, spoke of always being accompanied by another woman when she would go to swim practice. Her grandmother was one of her biggest supporters, sometimes attending both of her twice-a-day practices.

Rubab Raza is one of the original trailblazers for swimming in Pakistan. She, along with teammate, Mumtaz Ahmed, were Pakistan’s sole representatives in female swimming at the 2004 Athens games. Anum Banday joined the ranks in the 2012 London games, shattering her country’s record in the 400 medley. 

One common theme that each of these amazing athletes will likely share with you is that they needed the support of their community to accomplish their goals. It takes tenacity to be an exceptional athlete, and it takes courage to fight against old societal rules that say, as a women you are not allowed. 

But it also takes a community of supporters. 

Who Simrah represents:

Young women in Pakistan are often denied the opportunity to take part in sports and athletics. Every time Simrah dives into the pool to practice she is squashing gender biases and making it easier for future, younger swimmers to compete.

CHIME for CHANGE is adamant about helping young girls in Pakistan reach their potential. Not everyone can captivate an audience like Simrah, so for every other oppressed girl, there needs to be global support for change.