Story | 25 Mar, 2022

IUCN Pakistan appoints its first ever Youth Ambassador for Environment in Gilgit Baltistan

Ms. Mahnoor Saleh, “Pride of Pakistan awardee on 23rd March, 2022” and pride of Mountains has been appointed as IUCN Pakistan’s first ever Youth Ambassador for Environment in Gilgit Baltistan, recognizing her efforts to break the taboos and become a professional female winter sports player. She is the youngest athlete of Pakistan who has been awarded this noble national award.

Addressing the ceremony, Mr. Mahmood Akhtar Cheema, Country Representative IUCN Pakistan apprised that Ms. Mahnoor Saleh is one of the trainees from Hoper valley who showed the extraordinary talent in the ice rings in back-to-back winter sport events across Hunza, Nagar and Astore Districts of Gilgit Baltistan by winning two consecutive Silver medals; one at national level event at Ghulkin, Hunza and the second at Rama winter sports festival in Astore district.

“Today we are appointing Ms. Mahnoor Saleh as IUCN Pakistan’s first ever Youth Ambassador for Environment in Gilgit Baltistan”, Mahmood Akhtar Cheema, Country Representative, IUCN Pakistan

“IUCN’s experience of linking its conservation efforts to sports or winter games in GB was an interesting experience that led to unearth the hidden gems of the northern areas and untapped potential in the adventure and nature based sports”, he added.

Dr. Saeed Abbas, Biodiversity Expert IUCN Pakistan provided an overview that IUCN Pakistan with financial support of Italian Agency for Development Cooperation (AICS), Government of Italy has been implementing a project titled “Global Assessment of the State of Nature and Biodiversity Safeguarding Actions in Northern Pakistan” for the last three years. The main objective of the project is to safeguard biodiversity and livelihoods of northern mountain communities that are vulnerable due to unplanned infrastructural development initiatives.

IUCN Pakistan under the climate resilient livelihood options component of the said project, sponsored youth (20 boys and 5 girls) from District Nagar and trained them for two weeks in January 2022 to learn and promote winter sports in Gilgit Baltistan including ice hockey, ice skating, ice curling and skiing to attract tourists in winters as alternate livelihood option, which usually is considered as off-season. A major achievement of this project is the involvement of over 10,000 Youth from academia and local mountain communities. The faculty and students of Karakorum International University are being involved for research and field activities of the project.

Mahnoor’s father Mr. Saleh thanked the IUCN and Italian Agency for Development Cooperation (AICS) on behalf of his family to get her daughter trained on ice sports. He mentioned that the journey so far was not that easy as they faced huge resistance from the local communities due to social taboos. “Me and my wife brushed off all criticism and stayed on the course to let our daughter achieve her goal”, he added.

Mr. Aftab Rana, Managing Director, Pakistan Tourism Development Cooperation (PTDC) reflected that it wasn’t easy to bring the girls in sports because of societal norms but now Mahnoor has been recognized at the national level as an extraordinary athlete. It was also highlighted that Mahnoor is emerging as an icon for hidden talent of the Northern Pakistan. It is worthy to note that she is the first girl from District Nagar trained and participated in outdoor sport events and has been training other young girls in the area and making a positive impact. PTDC has always encouraged the tourism sector in remote areas of Pakistan. A certificate of appreciation has been awarded by PTDC to Mahnoor for recognizing her skills.

Mr. Irfan Tariq, Director General, Ministry of Climate Change (MoCC), Government of Pakistan applauded the efforts of both AICS and IUCN Pakistan in biodiversity safeguarding in Northern Pakistan. He mentioned that Mahnoor at a very early age has made us all proud. IUCN has remained very supportive of environmental conservation activities in the country and introduced some key concepts in Pakistan while working with MoCC.

Ms. Emanuala Benini, Director AICS, Pakistan and Afghanistan appreciated the success of this project by making a positive impact in Gilgit Baltistan by involving a large number of youth to support the project activities in field and research area. She strongly acknowledged the successful organization of winter sports festival in Gilgit Baltistan that resulted in promotion of local athletes with hidden talent which can be polished further to provide them better opportunities to demonstrate their skills. She encouraged Mahnoor and appreciated her parents for achieving this success and to continue it further. Ms. Benini and Mr. Cheema presented a shield to Mahnoor for her nomination as “Ambassador of Environment in GB”.

The ceremony was attended by representatives of Ministry of Climate Change, Government of Pakistan, Italian Agency for Development Cooperation, IUCN and media.

It was noted that the efforts of AICS and IUCN in safeguarding biodiversity and livelihoods are being applauded at all levels in Gilgit Baltistan.

For more information, please contact:

Hammad Saeed
Manager, Information and Knowledge Management
IUCN Pakistan
Cell: 0307-7773801