August 12, 2021
Favorite sport: Badminton
Favorite athlete: Caroline Marin, a Spanish professional badminton player
Friends describe her as: Funny, resilient and punctual
19-year-old student Laiba has always viewed gender discrimination as a major toxicity in society. Having been a victim of sexual harassment at the age of 13, and encountering ongoing sexual harassment, partisan politics, gender discrimination and more as woman and an athlete in Lahore, made her realise that she had to be the someone to “break the silence, speak the unspoken ugly truth and name the unnamed.”
This ultimately motivated her to establish her own NGO – the Masoud Sisters Foundation. The organization provides a safe environment for women in sports, teaches self-defense classes, supports girls who need help escaping abusive situations and more. She also finds motivation in playing badminton and dreams of becoming an Olympian.
1. What does it mean to you to be selected for the inaugural class of the Beyond Sport Youth Advisory Board (BSYAB)?
I feel very lucky to be selected to be a part of a diverse board and be blessed with the company of many competent and talented members. BSYAB will provide me with an international platform where I can understand the notion behind diversity, engage with a variety of perspectives and social issues and build community.
It will allow me to engage with brilliant students coming from different cultures, social-economic backgrounds, ethnicities etc. Media and politics are doing enough to highlight differences in communities and countries, but BSYAB will allow me to identify our similarities through the world of sports and I really look forward to that amazing experience. It will allow us to discuss major issues in our communities and find effective and resourceful solutions.
2. Over the two years, what is the primary thing you are most looking forward to getting out of the experience? What do you want to learn and teach?
I have multiple past experiences from running my school council post to playing multiple team sports internationally, such as footy and kabaddi. I have team management skills involving dealing with conflict, motivation and encouraging team members on any task.
Being a part of BSYAB, will allow me to showcase my skills and further enhance them and learn more by through interactive workshops. Furthermore, I look forward to voicing my opinions and that of the oppressed in my country on this platform. Above all, I wish to be inspired.
3. Beyond Sport believes that sport for social change is more than just bringing people together to bond and bridge divides through play, it’s about using it as a platform of learning and development. When used purposefully, and with intention, it can be a powerful pathway to effective solutions to the most complex social issue of our time.
What does using “sport with intention” mean to you?
It means influencing, it means using my platform, i.e. social media, to voice the social issues and the heinous atrocities occurring in my country every day. Last month, I led a social media campaign on Instagram along with ‘Leftistan’ and ‘Womanisation’ in favour of passing a domestic violence bill in Pakistan.
4. Who do you think is getting it right in the world of social change and why?
Girls Not Brides. It is a global partnership of over 300 organizations in 50 countries, all working to end child marriage within a generation. At current rates, 150 million more girls will be married as children by 2030.
With 13.5 million girls married off as child brides in 2010, this is a pretty ambitious goal, but one that the organization thinks it can meet through education, economic incentives, laws, grassroots support from men and local activism.
5. Briefly, what is the situation for women and girls in sport in Pakistan?
The security and position of women in Pakistan is very fragile, hence, the topic of women in sports comes far down in the list. Every day, my social media is filled with hashtags like #justiceforzainab, #justicefornoor and so on. Every girl in Pakistan currently fears to become the next hashtag and get forgotten after a short news headline.
Sports aren't encouraged in Pakistan for women. It is portrayed as a ‘male profession’ and very unfeminine. Women and girls in Pakistan struggle every day to prove their capabilities. When Pakistani men say they respect women they only respect the social and cultural construct they’ve built for women. If a woman doesn’t fall in that category like a sportswoman, she’ll be severely objectified, harassed, and constantly pulled back. It’s sick and it’s absolutely saddening.
6. Do you think that there has been any progress on women and girls’ rights in Pakistan in the last few years?
I feel there has been very little progress. Women here are deprived of security even within the walls of their homes. And there has been a spike in rape cases even in the major cities of Pakistan. Progress can be viewed by the passing of the hang the rapist bill, but it has still not been implemented upon. There are rules but they aren’t followed so rapists walk the streets without any fear.
With COVID's rise and the lockdown situation a spike was seen in domestic violence to which the minister of human rights presented a domestic violence bill in the assembly on 27th May 2021. It was rejected by the opposition and termed as Un-Islamic!!
7. Why did you establish the Masoud Sisters Foundation and what do you do through it?
Because of my experiences as an athlete in Pakistan and being a victim of sexual harassment at the young age of 13. Such experiences led me to establish my foundation'with a vision of provide a safe environment for women in sports. The NGO is built on the notion that women are capable of defending themselves and speaking up.
I lead self defence classes at government institutions and schools for the underprivileged like Door of Awareness, teaching 30+ girls and women aged between 8-20 years. There, I encourage girls to share their stories of any abuse, sexual harassment, etc. I’ve dealt with cases where my team and I have got girls admitted to Dar-ul-Awam, a women's shelter house, in order to escape either an abusive household or an ill-treatment.
I have devised my own self defence curriculum which provides the KRAV MAGA and also lectures on self defence awareness which covers areas like bodily autonomy, Yes vs No laws and so on. I also develop self defence toolkits.
8. What are the Foundation’s key successes over the last two years?
We recently bought two acres of land in my village (Basidarpur - District Nankana Sahib). It’s a highly remote area with barely any facilities. My dad has worked hard and used his savings to buy this land for the purpose of education and sporting activities for children. We started construction about a month back and have progressed immensely.
During COVID I continued to teach self defence techniques virtually via zoom and Instagram live. I also collaborated with various NGOs like mirror.pk and rizq.lgsjt to promote sports amongst teens.
9. What are your professional goals post-graduation?
I am currently studying Business Administration at universtity, but my aim is to pursue badminton full time as my career and represent my country in international tournaments and the Olympics. On the side, I want to study and get a PhD in sports management from a leading university outside Pakistan.
I also wish to open my own badminton academy and help talented young boys and girls to pursue their goals in sports despite their financial shortcomings.
10. How did you become exposed to badminton? What is it about the game that you like so much?
My father introduced me to the sport. He took me to watch the women's singles national championship finals. I watched them closely, their confidence reflecting through each point, their loud shouts, their assertiveness and their athleticism. I felt intrigued and inspired and I could picture myself in their position.
I love the sport as it’s one of the most challenging events and pushes one to their maximum ability. There’s always room for learning in this sport and the player bears both the wins and losses independently.
11. As you progress in life and your career, what legacy do you hope to leave on your peers, family and community?
I not only aim to qualify for the Olympics, but also want to win for Pakistan and set a benchmark for the entire country. Currently, no one even dares to dream of such a goal. I live this dream every day and struggle every day to make it a reality. I want to inspire other girls to dream and achieve in any field they set their minds too.
12. Do you have a personal motto?
My personal motto is to believe always. Believe that I’ll make it, believe that all the sweat I’ve put in will be worth it. With every loss, the belief that God has better plans for me, makes me keep going with more grit.