Written by Niala Mohammad and Wagma Jalawan
“Don’t Think Just Because You are a Girl You Can’t do Something.”
This tenacious tribalite has done more than climb rocks. She has challenged the cultural norms of a society where women are hidden in the shadows of men. Her goal is to win an Olympic gold medal and her mission is to break the negative image and stereotypes applied to Pakistani women and her fellow Pashtuns.
Climbing to the Top
Nazia by nature loves challenges, in fact that is what led her towards this hardline sport. In an interview with VOA Deewa, Nazia recalled her first encounter with rock climbing- “On March 8, 2010, I went on a university trip to Margala Mountains, where there was a co-ed rock climbing competition and I participated just for fun.” At that point Nazia realized how physically and mentally demanding rock climbing is and the challenge of the sport enticed her.
Since then, Nazia Parveen has won first place in 28 consecutive rock climbing competitions. Nazia gloated and said, “in 4 of those 28 competitions, I beat men.” After just 4 years, Nazia Parveen became the first woman from Pakistan and from FATA to enter international rock climbing competitions.
People’s Perceptions and Reactions
In a male dominated society such as Pakistan, it is hard for men to accept that a girl is participating in such a hardline sport. When Nazia first began rock climbing competitively, some of her male counterparts would boycott the competitions that she was participating in. But Nazia’s perseverance forced them to respect her as a fellow sportsman. Nazia stated, “Girls are often encouraged to participate in ‘soft’ games like badminton and table tennis. But we need to change this concept. We make up more than half the population.”
Diet, Exercise and Hobbies
This 5 foot 9 inch beauty looks like the quintessential Pashtun girl. But her passion for hardline sports and her competitive edge will throw you for a curve. Her passion for sports doesn’t end at rock climbing; she also loves para gliding, badminton, horseback riding, basketball, archery, and handball.
Her slender physique would never allow you to believe that she eats several times a day as a part of her routine diet and exercise regimen. When we asked Nazia what her favorite food was she quickly answered, “I LOVE REEJAY, RICE…all kinds of rice!”
Nazia is currently pursuing her MPhil in International Relation at National Defense University in Islamabad. She intends to follow her father’s footsteps and join the Pakistan Army.
Ms Parveen’s female dominated household consists of 5 sisters, 1 brother, an overprotective mother and an extremely supportive father. Her mother would interrupt her rock climbing competitions by nervously shouting “ya Allah Khair ke” (an Arabic verse with a Pashto twist meaning Oh My God) while her father always encouraged her by saying, “don’t think just because you are a girl you can’t do something.”
Nazia’s family in Bajaur Agency was puzzled by her choice of sports and often wondered “why she acts like a boy?” They would often tell her that rock climbing isn’t a girls sport. But once Nazia won a few competitions she started winning the support of her extended family in Bajaur. They have grown extremely proud of her accomplishments and have taken a keen interest in her competitions.
Giving back to FATA
“There is resistance in everything. But if you have passion, you can melt away that resistance.” And that is exactly what she wants to do after she accomplishes her rock climbing career goals. Nazia wants to open opportunities to the girls and boys of FATA who are less fortunate than her. “FATA has immense talent but they are not given opportunities. They can do wonders if they are given the opportunity because they have natural talent. In just 4 years I rose to the top. Imagine what these kids could do if they are given the chance.”
Nazia’s Facebook Page: