Canadian HC hosts Girls in Sports Gala, Banff Film Festival

By Hina Kiyani

ISLAMABAD:The High Commission of Canada, Islamabad has hosted its second annual Girls in Sports Gala and Banff Mountain Film Festival. In partnership with Right to Play, the Festival brought together over 200 girls as well as a diverse audience of notable female athletes, women’s rights activists, government officials, diplomats, and local not-for-profit organizations supporting the empowerment of women and girls through sport, said a news release issued by the embassy.
The festival featured inspirational films, engaging discussions, sports activity stations, as well as handicraft and food stalls, which highlighted the impacts of the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives (CFLI), particularly in the areas of women’s entrepreneurship, empowerment and socio-economic inclusion. The CFLI supports local partners with modest funding for small-scale, high-impact projects. The festival also intended to encourage and inspire the next generation of female athletes in Pakistan.
It was an opportunity to provide awards to two notable girls’ sports teams, the Islamabad Girls Basketball team and the Chitral Girls IceHockey team, both of which won their respective national championships. The event also featured a panel discussion moderated by renowned journalist and filmmaker Munizae Jahangir that highlighted the achievements and contributions of Pakistani women who have excelled in their respective fields, as well as male allies supporting the inclusion of females in sports.
The panelists included Amna Beg, Assistant Superintendent, Islamabad Police; Karishma Ali, renowned football player and social entrepreneur; Sana Mahmud, former captain of Pakistan’s football and basketball teams and a Right to Play Ambassador; Ishrat Fatima, Civil Society Manager with the Aga Khan Rural Support Programme; Asif Murad, founder and CEO of the Booni Environmental Academy; and Ehtesham Karim, founder of Fight Fortress.
The panelists shared their inspiring stories and experiences while also highlighting the barriers that are still left to overcome for supporting girls’ full inclusion in sports.
Another key highlight of the festival was the screening of Canada’s celebrated Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour, which featured more than a dozen films showcasing the best of outdoor adventure, culture, and environment-themed international films.
The film selection highlighted the beauty and diversity of mountain landscapes, as well as the challenges facing these regions due to climate change and human activity. Films such as ‘Saving Glaciers’, ‘Joy’ and ‘Clean Mountains’ showcased the impact of climate change on our mountains and the importance of environmental conservation, while Alta’ and ‘Fastest Girl in the Village’ captured the thrill of outdoor adventure and the capability of female athletes.

In tribute to Pakistan’s majestic mountain heritage, the festival also featured ‘Doo Sar: A Karakoram Ski Expedition Film’.
The Banff Mountain Film Festival, which the High Commission of Canada hosted for the second time in multiple locations in Pakistan, is one of several key initiatives which promotes cultural exchange and dialogue between Canada and Pakistan, andwhich will contribute to advancing shared priorities on climate action for a greener, sustainable future.
Addressing the occasion, Canadian High Commissioner, Leslie Scanlon said: “The empowerment of women and girls is not just a matter of human rights, it is also an essential ingredient for sustainable development and economic growth.
Canada remains committed to advancing gender equity and promoting the rights of women and girls, both at home and abroad. We recognize that when women are empowered, they can contribute fully to their communities, drive innovation and growth, and help create a more prosperous and peaceful world for everyone.
We know that the support of fathers, brothers and male community leaders is essential for allowing girls to participate. We want to celebrate the leadership of those making that possible. When men support women in achieving their full potential, great things happen.”
During his remarks, Right To Play Country Director, Ali Khayam, also highlighted his organisation’s mission of empowering girls and youth through sports.
“We believe that every girl deserves the opportunity to participate in sports and experience the many benefits it brings including improved physical health, self-confidence, and leadership skills. By celebrating female athletes and sharing their stories, we hope to inspire girls to break down barriers and achieve their goals in sports and in life.”