On Wednesday, a three-day women’s sporting gala—renamed the ‘GB Women’s Fair 2022’ at the last minute—kicked off which included girls from across Gilgit Baltistan competing in a variety of sporting events. It is quite encouraging to see how the event went through despite the undue opposition and attention it received in the media due to criticism from conservative groups and religious elements.

The event which is being hosted at the Lalik Jan Stadium was a women-only affair and not even male officers were allowed to be present at the venue. It is hard to understand how such an event could offend anyone, but that is the reality for women across the country where any expression of joy or hosting of activities outside their traditionally defined gender roles will be frowned upon.

The event was organised by the GB government, with the support of the opposition parties who withstood pressure from the religious groups. The opposition of these groups was centered around the arguments that such events are against “Islamic and cultural values” and staged demonstrations in the run-up to Wednesday’s festivities. Local religious leaders from different sects had called for mass agitation, accusing the government and administration of spreading “vulgarity” by organising a sports event for women.

Government officials who stood their ground and negotiated with religious leaders to ensure that the event was not disrupted must be commended. In many instances, such things can snowball into serious agitations leading to violence and intimidation. Therefore, such situations have to be handled delicately, and often all it takes is tweaking the framing of the issue and making the opposing party feel as if they have been heard. Hopefully one day we will be in a place where there is no need for such gymnastics, but for now it is good to see this event being underway which is important for the promotion and development of women’s sports in GB and in other parts of the country.