“It is time to raise our voice for sports and make it a fundamental right everywhere in the world”

Rana at Sports for Development and Peace programme held in South Korea

In my childhood, I heard a proverb: “a sound body has a sound mind”. I believe to get education and to change the world we require sound minds.

A query rose, how we can obtain sound minds? The answer is uncomplicated – through sports.

It is a powerful instrument which can be use for the development (inner and physical development) of children and youth. Youth and children in conflict or disaster areas, as a refugee, facing racism or discrimination, living with HIV/AIDS and in low-earning families are facing anxiety and pressure – which is an obstacle in learning.

The merely easily available, low-cost and high-impact tool to conquer pressure around us is sports. Sports provide us physical fitness which leads to mental fitness and leadership skills.

Currently in Pakistan sports facilities are rare in public and private schools, universities and in the community. Through sports, we can develop children and youth who will be best equipped to improve learning outcomes of schools and study.

Rana with participants at the Sports for Development and Peace programme

It will give social interaction opportunities to children and youth from different educational institutions and is also important for learning and to defeat poverty and social barriers pressure.

The gender gap and inequality are factors affecting the education of youth. Sports can be used to promote gender equality in educational institutions which will be fruitful to enhance collaborative learning.  

I am talking about positive sports which lead a child or youth towards leadership skills like tolerance, accepting challenges, determination, communication, inclusion, team building, passion, punctuality, intelligence, honesty, creativity, mobilisation, thinking out of the box, clear vision, inspiring, respecting other opinions, acceptance of binding rules, humanitarian values and fairness.

Sports is also a tool of fundraising, public awareness, advocacy, conflict resolution, peace-building, health promotion and disease prevention, promotion of gender equality and post-disaster relief. It can augment social interaction and justice.

Pakistan is facing extremism and violence currently and we can counter it by supremacy of sports. Ping pong was used in the past to resolve conflict issues between different countries.

Young leaders from across Asia and the Pacific got together in Gwangju

Unfortunately, in Pakistan sports facilities and playgrounds are exceptional and are unavailable for low-earning families. The majority of public and low-fee private schools have no sports facilities, even in big cities like Lahore.

These schools have a majority of children from low-earning families who are victims of financial pressure and stress. Governments need to finance sports to make it accessible for low-earning people at grassroots level. It will also help to enhance learning and quality of education.

The United Nations has a department of sports for development and peace which is promoting sports and doing advocacy of young leaders on sports for development and peace under the leadership of Will Field Lemke, special adviser to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Trained young leaders are working with people at grassroots level to develop them by providing skills. I attended the young leaders programme last year on Sports for Development and Peace held at Gwangju in South Korea, representing Kafka Welfare Organization Pakistan.

There were 32 young leaders from Asia Pacific who attended the programme and learned conflict resolution, sports for development and peace, countering HIV/AIDS with sports and child protection.

Rana with some of the young people taking part in the programme

Sessions were conducted by UNOSDP, UNAIDS, International Olympic Association, British football federation and South Korean Taekwondo federation. They used soccer, table tennis, taekwondo and many of their own designed games to teach leadership skills. In 17 days, I accepted many challenges, learned many leadership skills and applied them through sports activities.

After coming back to my country, I have applied my learnings. My Kafka Welfare Organization has been working on development through sports. I organised a seminar on Sports for Education and Development at Punjab University in Lahore to promote sports in education to improve learning and development of children. The involved organisations were Kafka Welfare Organization and Alif Ailaan. Beneficiaries were university boys and girls.

Mr Salman Abid, Regional Head SPO, Parliamentary Secretary Information and Culture Rana M. Arshad and Parliamentarian Khuram Wattoo were keynote speakers. Discussions were based on policies and government efforts to improve sports facilities at educational institutions. Parliamentarians assured they would raise their voice for sports at parliament. Media covered the session and youth participated warmly in the Q&A session.

Children with disabilities can take part in sports activities with minimum expenses – only the creativity of a young leader/coach is required. In this way, we can develop people with physical restrictions.

Making someone feeling better can be a most lovely thing in someone’s life. Only people with a growth mind set can feel it. It is time to raise our voice for sports and make it a fundamental right everywhere in the world.

The happiness we get from sports is precious. I hope we all will feel it for some time in our life.