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Canadian High Commissioner visits Winter Sports Festivals in Chitral, GB

Leslie Scanlon, the Canadian High Commissioner in Pakistan, went to five Winter Festivals in Chitral and Gilgit-Baltistan in January 2023. She went with ice hockey fans, including her daughter, who is an ice hockey coach.

This was the fourth year that Canadians actively took part in Winter Festivals. The goal was to give women and girls more power through sports, encourage environmental protection and responsible eco-tourism while talking about the hard effects of climate change, and support community-driven economic development for women in particular.

Through the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives, Canada worked with The Aga Khan Rural Support Programme (AKRSP) to help communities that showed they were committed to putting on winter festivals for everyone, starting conversations about how to adapt to climate change and protect the environment, and helping women start their own businesses.

Ice hockey players. — Canadian High Commission
Ice hockey players. — Canadian High Commission
The High Commissioner and her team went on a 16-day trip to visit communities, teach young people how to play ice hockey, go to different festival events, and meet with local leaders.

The programme brought together 40 teams of both men and women who played ice hockey. It also gave more than 100 rural women business owners the chance to show off their products at Women Business Expos held alongside Winter Sports Festivals.

Scanlon said, “Canada has a Feminist International Assistance Policy, which shows that we believe women and girls should be involved in everything from politics to the economy to sports. Only then will communities in Canada and all over the world be able to grow and thrive.”

“Everyone has a part to play in breaking down barriers and making sure that women, girls, and people with different abilities have every chance to succeed in life. The best part for us has been watching the girls’ hockey games and being able to play with so many great female athletes. We’re glad that these places are trying to include everyone,” she said.

Jamil Uddin, who is the General Manager of AKRSP, also talked about the project’s goals.

The main goal of the Winter Sports Festivals is to improve the economic and physical health of the people of Gilgit-Baltistan. This is because the harsh winters in these areas stop most physical and economic activities. So, AKRSP and its partners give us a chance to get people involved in physical and economic activities,” Jamil said.

Skating is done by children — Canadian High Commission
Skating is done by children — Canadian High Commission
Ice hockey is a true Canadian passion that gives Canadians in Chitral and Gilgit-Baltistan a unique way to get involved. Winter sport diplomacy has become a powerful way for different cultures to learn about each other. This is in line with Canada’s international commitments to support gender equality and deal with climate change.

The High Commissioner also went to international aid projects funded by “Broadening Economic and Social Transformation for Women’s Economic Empowerment and Recovery (BEST4WEER)”. The Aga Khan Foundation Canada (AKFC) and Global Affairs Canada are funding BEST4WEER, a five-year, $20.16 million project that aims to improve women’s social and economic empowerment.