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Maria Toorpakai Wazir, Born a Warrior

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Featuring in the flashy Toronto Film Festival, the documentary named Girl Unbound: The War To Be Her in 2016 depicted the story of Maria Toorpakai Wazir, the girl who defied all odds and broke all stereotypes around her to become one of the world’s most renowned squash players.

Born in an extremely orthodox and conservative tribal region of Waziristan, province of Pakistan, Maria Toorpakai Wazir started observing the gender discrimination and female oppression around her. At the tender age of four years, she burnt all her clothes, cut her hair and started living life as a boy on the streets of Waziristan because given her conservative regional boundaries; she could not step out of the house being a girl. Her father supported her and started calling her Genghis Khan and took her to a local sports arena where she fell in love with squash at the age of 12.

“I love squash, and through squash, I understood myself. It empowered me. It gave me the strength to fight back … I see my whole life in a squash court,” Wazir said.

She entered her first ever local squash tournament at the age of 12 as a boy and won. At the age of 16, her identity was revealed when she had to show her birth certificate to enroll in at a squash academy and trouble followed her afterwards where she received several threats from Taliban.

“I was harassed, I was attacked,” she said. “I was bullied on every corner, on every step or anywhere I go. That made me realize that I wish I was not a girl,” Maria Wazir said.

But none of the menaces or the blackmailing stopped her from chasing her dreams. At the age of 16, she won bronze at the World Junior Championship, and by 2012, she was ranked Pakistan’s No. 1 female squash player. She received international appreciation on her achievements despite facing the obstacles of life threats. Around 2009, threats from Taliban are escalated and she had to go underground for three years.

Then she received message from the international squash champion Jonathan Power who offered his help to Maria. “I did some research and realized that she was actually very accomplished in her junior career,” he said. “I dug a little more and realized that she had the potential to be a great player … So then, I sent a reply saying come over here, and I would like to offer you a job and help you and support you and help you achieve your goals.” Said Power. She landed in Toronto in 2012 and four years later, she is ranked the top 47th squash player in the world and has also written an autobiography “A Different Kind of Daughter”.

Whoever you are keep believing in your dreams!

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