Husna leads in blue as Hafsa tries to claim third place at the 2022 Provincial U-21 Women’s Games – photos by Asim Sheraz

Husna Awan, 18, and Hafsa Awan, 16, are two athletic sisters who practice karate, play badminton like pros and beat all their peers in track and field. Still, the talented sisters struggle to make sport their careers. Against all odds, winning sporting laurels for Pakistan is a cherished dream for the pair.

The sisters come from a very poor family in Peshawar. Her father makes kites for a living. Her mother stays ill. Some time ago she also lost her eyesight.

Since their mother’s mobility is restricted, Husna and Hafsa have taken on all the housework and look after their parents. They also learned how to build kites from their father. Today, they make and sell kites to support their education and sports expenses, supplementing what little their father earns.

The sisters’ athletic journey began a few years ago when they begged their father to admit them to the martial arts academy near their small home in Sohail Abad on the outskirts of Peshawar. The father agreed because the girls did well in school. The girls were able to complete karate training under a qualified instructor.

Two sisters who make kites for a living in Peshawar are also excellent athletes with big dreams to make their country famous

At that time, in order to relieve their father financially, Husna and Hafsa learned the wonderful art of kite making from their father at home. “And then together we made 300 kites a day, which we took to Yakatoot Bazaar, a big kite market, to sell,” says Husna, the older of the sisters.

Husna (left) and Hafsa build kites at home

“It has helped us to a certain extent but we still need financial support to support our parents as our mother is now bedridden and our father is [practically] unemployed,” says Husna. “He has no income other than what he earns by selling kites. That’s not enough because he also has to take care of our mother’s medical expenses.”

The sisters are often seen competing in the U21 provincial games for various sports including badminton, volleyball, track and field and of course martial arts. They have won multiple gold, silver, and bronze medals and certificates of appreciation in martial arts.

“Despite everything, our parents always encouraged us to make an effort,” says Hafsa, the younger sister. She adds that both also attend college and after classes they quickly go to the Peshawar Sports Complex to practice different sports. Your days are busy. From the Peshawar Sports Complex, head to the Martial Arts Academy. Then they finally go home for an early meal, after which they settle down to build kites.

“Life is tough, but we have to excel on this journey. Otherwise success is just a mirage. We are determined to succeed in our mission to make a name for ourselves in the sport,” says Hafsa. “It has always been our big dream to be part of international sporting events and bring medals to Pakistan. We also want to set an example for other girls like us that hard work pays off. If we’ve excelled in both science and sport, so can they,” she adds.

Husna and Hafsa’s father, Mohsin Ali Awan, says he wants his daughters to focus on their education and sport but not have to struggle to earn a living at such a young age. “If they get a scholarship from the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government, my girls can be successful on both fronts,” he says.

Rasheeda Ghaznavi, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Female Games Director, says they would soon be awarding cash prizes to winning players at division level. “It would motivate and incentivize more girls from the province to participate in sports activities,” she says, adding that in 2015 they also introduced a sports scholarship for talented female athletes, which can help girls like Husna and Hafsa.

It’s gold and silver: Husna (left) and Hafsa – photos by Asim Sheraz

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Sports Directorate is said to have improved incentives and facilities for women. Recently, around 1,710 female athletes competed in the 2022 Provincial U-21 Women’s Games, including volleyball, cricket, badminton, tug of war, netball, table tennis and track and field. The huge sports gala was held in three districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa namely Swabi, Charsadda and Peshawar.

The promise of proper training, sports facilities, sports equipment, monthly stipends and hefty prizes, with good security, played a part in motivating many young girls from across the province to attend the event in an otherwise conservative Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Among them were Hafsa and Husna. However, her father, along with the parents of the other winners of the games, complained that the cash prizes are pending and that there is no more mention of scholarships or scholarships.

The young athletes from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have repeatedly demonstrated their zest for action at sporting events. With a little government support, athletes like Hafsa and Husna can certainly make the country proud.

The author is a freelance writer writing about literature, culture and sports.

He tweets @sheralamshin

Published in Dawn, EOS, June 26, 2022

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