Saleem Hopes to Use Sports to Empower Pakistani Girls

Throughout Fatima Saleem’s life in Pakistan, she has lived through and seen how ongoing war can affect a nation. The most recent happenings that affected this nation are the terrorist attacks on a school in December. After 150 people were killed, most of them schoolchildren, Saleem still hopes that sports can empower Pakistani girls.

Saleem spent time at ESPN in 2013 as part of the Global Sports Mentoring Program, and stated that “Sports has always been a means to bring all nations to one common place,”. Saleem was raised with three brothers and a father who watched cricket, soccer, and field hockey with her family. Saleem also competitively swam when she was young. With her love of sports, she turned her love of sports into a career and became a sports anchor for national network Geo News, and became one of the few female sports journalists in her region. Saleem’s career started off so well, her network wanted to try her as a co-anchor for a sports show, where she covered the Beijing Olympics as her first major event. Being one of the only female reporters in her region, she got a lot of hate mail and negative comments, but soon the hate mail stopped when they realized she was there to stay. Saleem has also raised the stations ratings, and her knowledge of the sports demands respect from those who didn’t before.

For women in Pakistan, girls start working in the home from a very young age instead of going and playing like children in other countries. Saleem says they have no idea what they are missing. Those who do play sports find themselves lacking support, venues where they can follow modesty dress codes, properly trained coaches, and other female teammates. Saleem says that’s what drove her away from swimming at such a young age. Saleem believes that the women in her country need a change, and she should change course for her countrywomen and give them a deeper, more authentic involvement in sports. Saleem also states “Our girls deserve to enjoy a proper childhood, not just to be babysitters when they are babies themselves,”.

Saleem started a “Enter Go Girl Pakistan” organization in February 2014 which allows girls ages 5-12 to have a safe place to play soccer and other sports at no cost clinics, run by professional women coaches. Although the program had received new funding, and was anticipated to open back up in January, the program has been stopped momentarily due to the recent attacks on schoolchildren. Safety must come first in situations like this, but Saleem is still determined to change the way young girls live in Pakistan.