International Women's Day 2016: Put your questions to the inspirational Maria Toorpakai, author of A Different Kind of Daughter

(22 Posts)
RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Wed 02-Mar-16 17:06:44

To celebrate International Women’s Day 2016 (on March 8) we’re inviting you to send in your Qs to professional squash player Maria Toorpakai. Maria grew up in a violently oppressive tribal region of Pakistan, where girls rarely leave their homes and are forbidden from playing sport.

But Maria did, disguising herself as a boy for many years to follow her dream, and becoming a lightning rod of freedom in her country's fierce battle over women's rights.
 When her true gender was eventually exposed, Maria was thrust into the national spotlight – and the crosshairs of the Taliban, who wanted Maria and her family dead.

Maria was forced to flee her country in order to continue playing and settled in Canada. She is now the number one female squash player in Pakistan.

Put your questions to Maria before midday on Tuesday 8 March and we’ll upload her answers to your questions later that afternoon.

Maria’s memoir, A Different Kind of Daughter tells of Maria’s harrowing Journey to play the sport she knew was her destiny. Read an extract here.

Allgunsblazing Fri 04-Mar-16 19:34:25

Happy Women's Day!
Maria, I have no questions, but I will seek out your book and read it. smile💐

scarletribbonsforherhair Sat 05-Mar-16 07:39:58

Hi Maria,
What do you think are the most important lessons a mother can teach her daughter in life before sending her out into a 'Mans' world.

Edeline Sat 05-Mar-16 08:06:29

Maria, your courage and determination is inspirational! Thank you for sharing your story! Do you have any advice for young girls wanting to play competitive sports?

scallopsrgreat Sat 05-Mar-16 11:17:11

Hi Maria, I'm really looking forward to reading your book - just downloaded for the Kindle.

How were you introduced to squash and what/who gave you the idea of disguising as a boy to continue your dreams?

AnnMumsnet (MNHQ) Mon 07-Mar-16 13:49:56

hi - some general Qs about squash from me - my children play (aged 10 and 12) and really enjoy it - what do you enjoy about playing, have you ever smashed into the wall and really hurt yourself (I see blood splatters on court a lot shock and what do you think can be done to encourage women or other children to take it up? I had a few sessions with the coach but it ended because no one else was very interested. I think it's such a good sport for all round fitness (plus all weather) so it was a real shame!

MyCatIsBatman Mon 07-Mar-16 14:07:15

Message deleted by MNHQ. Here's a link to our Talk Guidelines.

MyCatIsBatman Mon 07-Mar-16 14:14:22

Hi Maria - what an amazing story. I've just bought your book and am looking forward to reading it.

Did you know of any other girls growing up who shared the same experience as you?

Thanks!

TheSandmansSon Mon 07-Mar-16 14:18:11

Hi Maria, thanks for taking our questions

What sort of work does your Only One Girl Foundation do? Is it localised in Pakistan or is it international?

Morningbear Mon 07-Mar-16 16:11:42

Hi Maria, was fascinated to read your story. Are you and your family still living in Canada? I'm wondering how and your family found the transition of moving from Pakistan to a western country? Can you ever imagine living back in Pakistan?

mariamazur Mon 07-Mar-16 19:19:17

Maria, were you more into squash or was it just need of going against all odds at the time? and did you ever plan to reveal you are woman? Regards from another Maria.

TooMuchOfEverything Mon 07-Mar-16 23:32:36

Wow. I've just read the extract. Thank you. Is there a version of your book that would be suitable for junior school children please? Or any plans for one?

TooMuchOfEverything Mon 07-Mar-16 23:36:35

I've just read that you were born in 1990! I'd been thinking of this as a 'very old tale from times gone by'. I am gobsmacked at how young you are. I'm so sorry that the generations before you did not manage to make this world fairer for you.

RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 08-Mar-16 10:36:51

Hi Maria

Happy Women's Day and thanks for taking the time out of your schedule to answer our questions today. Congratulations both on your achievements in sport and for writing your book! I'd love to know how you came to write the book and how difficult you found it to write. Also can you tell us whether you've read any other inspirational memoirs and (last question) who has most inspired you in the world of sport? THANKS

Just a quick note to say that we're going to be running a twitter comp later today to win one of 3 copies of Maria's book A Different Kind of Daughter. Follow @mumsnetbooks for more info.

RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 10-Mar-16 09:36:02

We now have Maria's answers back and are going to upload them to the thread. Thanks to all those who sent in questions.

MariaToorpakai Thu 10-Mar-16 10:32:01

scarletribbonsforherhair

Hi Maria,
What do you think are the most important lessons a mother can teach her daughter in life before sending her out into a 'Mans' world.

I feel that parents should always make sure that their daughters and other children are very clearly told ‘we are here to support you.’ This often goes unsaid, but I often see that girls are afraid to speak up for their own rights. Letting your child know they are supported is very important. This is particularly pertinent in countries like Pakistan where you cannot return to your family once you are married. Knowing that they are your daughter and will always be that is, in my opinion, an important message.

MariaToorpakai Thu 10-Mar-16 10:32:57

Edeline

Maria, your courage and determination is inspirational! Thank you for sharing your story! Do you have any advice for young girls wanting to play competitive sports?

I think all girls, no matter their age, should try sports. As many as possible and as young as possible. Sport is healthy for your brain, your body and it’s a great way to teach children how to cope with future struggles in life. Everyone has their own gift, and in order to find it, you have to try as many things as possible. So even if you think a sport isn’t for you, or that it’s not a sport for girls, try it anyway. You need to try to explore what your particular gift is. Don’t be afraid, there’s no right or wrong thing for you. Also, know that you are equally as good as men, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

MariaToorpakai Thu 10-Mar-16 10:39:59

scallopsrgreat

Hi Maria, I'm really looking forward to reading your book - just downloaded for the Kindle.

How were you introduced to squash and what/who gave you the idea of disguising as a boy to continue your dreams?

Squash is a very popular sport in my country, like football in the UK. But to be honest, finding squash was accident, even a miracle really. I am from a very rural, tribal area in Pakistan, and sport is not something we had the opportunity to do. It wasn’t until we moved to Peshwar and I saw two kids playing squash that I even thought about playing. I thought it was such a beautiful game: constantly chasing, diving and hitting. You need lots of determination and strategy, it’s like an active version of chess.

Disguising as a boy in my early years in the tribal areas taught me to fight for my own rights and speak up. When I became a girl again to compete in squash, all those lessons I had already learned made me strong and confident. So pursuing a sporty life was easy.

As for living as a boy, the idea came from within me. I wanted to be like my brothers, free and unrestrained, playing marbles and flying kites. I burned my girly clothes while my parents and siblings were away from the house. I took the scissors and cut my hair, terribly. The fire was still burning when my dad came home. He saw it and the fire and was surprised, asking what I had done. I stood their stubbornly and he smiled. He took me to the barber to shave my head, bought me the boys’ clothes I said I wanted and gave me the name Ghengis Kahn.

MariaToorpakai Thu 10-Mar-16 10:40:52

AnnMumsnet

hi - some general Qs about squash from me - my children play (aged 10 and 12) and really enjoy it - what do you enjoy about playing, have you ever smashed into the wall and really hurt yourself (I see blood splatters on court a lot shock and what do you think can be done to encourage women or other children to take it up? I had a few sessions with the coach but it ended because no one else was very interested. I think it's such a good sport for all round fitness (plus all weather) so it was a real shame!

I recently hurt on my eyebrow with a racket. My racket bounced off an opponent’s shoulder and cut me quite badly. But when I was young and didn’t play sport, I was out wrestling with boys, and once had a brick smashed over my head, requiring 15 stitched. As a professional player, I get injured quite regularly, though nothing like a brick. But life is about taking risks, and it’s fun to go all out and be courageous and strong. These things don’t matter in the scheme of things, the pursuit of being the best means these things will happen. As the saying goes, beautiful flowers grow in thorns, and a little adversity makes you strong. I see no point in a soft life personally.

Squash is a very dear sport to me as I truly because it saved my life. Not only did it improve my health and athleticism, it also improved me as a person. Inside a squash court I can feel all the parts of my life, joy and frustration, coming together and I can see how life works more clearly. I’m quite a spiritual person now because of squash – it’s taught me how to deal with real life outside of the court. For this reason, young children should be encouraged to play. It is an indoor sport that is safe and secure, lets them get healthy and strive for excellence and also teaches them life skills.

MariaToorpakai Thu 10-Mar-16 10:42:22

MyCatIsBatman

Hi Maria - what an amazing story. I've just bought your book and am looking forward to reading it.

Did you know of any other girls growing up who shared the same experience as you?

Thanks!

I believe everyone has a wonderful story from within them, and I know of many incredible women from my area of the world and beyond. But sadly, not all these stories will be heard. The exceptions are people like Malala and myself. There are so many other courageous girls in my area, but some fell early in the journey. They made sacrifices for their families and got married. Women are so courageous to me, how much love and sacrifice they make for family.

It is my family that allowed me to continue my journey, so that I am now at this point telling it. So many women don’t get that chance. More family support like the kind I experienced could stop more women from falling and more amazing stories being told and lived.

MariaToorpakai Thu 10-Mar-16 10:47:25

Morningbear

Hi Maria, was fascinated to read your story. Are you and your family still living in Canada? I'm wondering how and your family found the transition of moving from Pakistan to a western country? Can you ever imagine living back in Pakistan?

My family still live in Peshwar. However, my high profile in Pakistan made me a target for the Taliban and so I moved to Canada so I could continue training and keep myself and my family safe. Coming from the most dangerous part of the world, famous for terrorism and talibanisation, I was really scared how people would react to a person from this area. The beautiful thing is that they never asked about my reiligion or background. All they asked was what I needed. The love they gave me changed me and made me a more open person. I call them my family and friends now, and I advocate for them in Pakistan too, trying to break down barriers of ignorance with my experience of a different kind of people.

MariaToorpakai Thu 10-Mar-16 10:51:11

RachelMumsnet

Hi Maria

Happy Women's Day and thanks for taking the time out of your schedule to answer our questions today. Congratulations both on your achievements in sport and for writing your book! I'd love to know how you came to write the book and how difficult you found it to write. Also can you tell us whether you've read any other inspirational memoirs and (last question) who has most inspired you in the world of sport? THANKS

Just a quick note to say that we're going to be running a twitter comp later today to win one of 3 copies of Maria's book A Different Kind of Daughter. Follow @mumsnetbooks for more info.

I always find it very hard to speak about my life, as it takes me back to those bad memories. But I feel it is also very important to share this experience and the lessons from it. I am concerned where the world is going: I have seen many bad things happen to people, girls in particular. All I want is peace and understanding between people. I hope to connect people, wherever they are, East or West. And I want to do this through sports, something that is able to connect people in such an incredible way.
Unfortunately, I’m too busy playing and working on my world ranking (number 1 in Pakistan, number 50 worldwide) to reach very much for pleasure. I am however still pursuing further education, and I really like learning new things like painting and singing. But I can’t wait to discover more when I have more time to dedicate to reading and leisure time.

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