Football captain Hajra Khan named mental health champion for British charity

September 17, 2019

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Pakistan's new ambassador for British Asian Trust Hajra Khan. — British Asian Trust
Pakistan's new ambassador for British Asian Trust Hajra Khan. — British Asian Trust

Pakistan women’s national football captain Hajra Khan has been named as the new ambassador for the British Asian Trust, one of the Prince of Wales’s charities in the United Kingdom.

According to a press release issued by the organisation, Hajra will help create mass awareness about mental health issues, enabling it to "scale up its mental health programme in Pakistan".

"She joins a host of high-profile figures 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 organisation, citing World Health Organisation statistics, pointed out that there are more than 50 million people in Pakistan affected by mental health issues with less than 400 psychiatrists to help address them 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 the captain of the women's national football team at the age of 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 has scored more than 100 goals — the only Pakistani to have done so.

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’.

Speaking about 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 define nor protect you.

Pakistan women’s football team star Hajra Khan. — British Asian Trust
Pakistan women’s football team star Hajra Khan. — British Asian Trust

"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."

The British Asian Trust has been backing mental health programmes in Pakistan since 2011 and amplified its efforts substantially 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."