We wrote an exposé on Pakistani squash player Maria Toorpakai Wazir, who famously disguised herself as a boy in order to learn, attend school, train, and compete in squash tournaments in the Taliban-controlled area of Pakistan she called home, South Waziristan.
Wazir has now been appointed to the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) Women in Sport Commission. Her now role will include assisting the IOC in the development and implementation of Pakistani women and sports policy.
This is a great role for Maria due to her life-long commitment to breaking down gender barriers and promoting women in squash and sports in general. Her hometown of South Waziristan was, and still is, a highly conservative place, where women competing in any sport is considered highly un-Islamic.
However, Maria persisted and endured, and is now the highest ranked female squash player in the country of Pakistan.
At her new position at the International Olympic Committee, Maria Toorpakai will advise the IOC Session, the IOC President, and the IOC Executive Board on promoting the well-being and rights of females in sports, promoting the use of sports as a societal tool for gender equality, and the personal empowerment of women, as well as raising awareness of abuse and harassment in sports.
Toorpakai stated in a new press release that “It’s definitely very exciting news for me and for all of us, I can play a better role from this position for athletes and girls in sports. […] The Olympics is a stage where the whole world unites and shows their human power. […] I really appreciate IOC President Thomas Bach’s efforts to introduce more women to the IOC Commissions. It was a much needed step and it will definitely improve female athlete’s participation in the Olympics.”
The International Olympic Committee has had a 70 percent increase in female participation in the IOC Commissions since September of 2013 — this is a much needed rise towards gender equality — now, 38 percent of the IOC Commissions are made up of women. While it is not perfect, it is a huge step.