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Women Football Captain Hajra Khan Becomes Mental Health Ambassador for British Charity

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Pakistan women’s national football team captain Hajra Khan has been named as the new ambassador for the British Asian Trust, a charity run by the Prince of Wales.

According to a press release issued by the organisation, Hajra would play her role in creating mass awareness about mental health issues, thus enabling the charity to “scale up its mental health programme in Pakistan”.

“She joins a host of high-profile figures from Pakistan, including Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, Sanam Saeed and Noreen Khan, to be a champion of the organisation’s mental health work in Pakistan,” read the British Asian Trust handout.

The charity, while citing World Health Organisation statistics, pointed out that more than 50 million people in Pakistan have been affected by mental health issues with less than 400 psychiatrists to help patients and “almost no community mental health services”.

“The Trust aims to reach 150,000 people and touch the lives of 500,000 more over the next five years through the provision of community-based mental healthcare, training, and awareness-raising to improve knowledge, referrals, and access to support,” the press release said.

Hajra became captain of the women’s national football team when she was 20. She holds the distinction of being the only Pakistani footballer invited and trained by the German Bundesliga football clubs.

In 2014, she accepted an offer to play for the SHR Football Club in Maldives and over the course of her club career she has scored more than 100 goals becoming the only Pakistani to have achieved this feat.

Hajra has remained active in spreading awareness about mental health in Pakistan and also gave a Ted Talk ‘Athletes and Mental Health — The Unrevealed Contender’.

Stressing the importance of mental health, Hajra said, “Despite being a successful football player who’s received numerous accolades, I, too, have been through times when I was literally fighting for my life. Success or your role in life neither defines nor protect you.”

“That was when I truly realised what being tough meant and that someone needs to stand up for people with mental health issues. This has become my purpose. Football is just my platform and I hope that along with British Asian Trust, we can really make an impactful difference,” she added.

The British Asian Trust has been backing mental health programmes in Pakistan since 2011 and has intensified its efforts in 2018.

According to the press release: “It helps to transform the situation for people with mental health issues in the country, working with local partners to develop services, train specialists, reduce stigma and change public perceptions.”

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