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Sports for girls are more than play in Bangladesh, they’re tool for progress (even survival)

November 23, 2009 – 4:46 AM
GIrls playing handball in Bangladesh
Girls playing handball in Bangladesh

By Laura Pappano

Sport is a tool for social, political and economic equality. In Bangladesh — where girls face routine physical violence, child marriage, and are denied the same access to education as boys — that couldn’t be more critical. Consider that the country’s Demographic and Health Survey showed that 36 percent of women believe that “wife beating is justified.” Clearly, the power of sport to build physical strength and self-worth among schoolgirls is about more than play. It’s about survival.

Promoting Human Rights and Education in Bangladesh (PHREB) does innovative work with schools to create sports opportunities for girls – something that PHREB executive director Faridul Alam told FairGameNews challenges rigid gender roles.

“People widely believe that girls do not need to achieve education,” Alam says in an e-mail. “In almost all schools in Bangladesh there is an annual sports competition where girls have a chance to play some traditional games such as kabadi. However, during the rest of the year, most schools do not have any organized sports events for girls. On the other hand, boys can play whatever sports they like, any time they like. Boys regularly play at school and community grounds, often on a daily basis.”

While most high schools are coed, he notes that “in these schools girls have no chance to play as it is considered shameful for girls to play.  There is also a shortage of female trainers, which also hampers girls’ access to sports.”

Carrie Gage, a volunteer from Australia working on the ground with schoolgirls through PHREB, helped FairGameNews hear from six girls aged 14 and 15 who gathered during a debate club meeting to collectively answer questions we submitted about what sports participation means to them. Here’s what the girls had to say:

FGN: Which sport do you play — or are you interested in playing?
Girls: At school, after our examinations, we play cricket. This is only for one day a year. At home, we play badminton with some of our friends and our brothers. We are interested to play football (soccer) but our guardians do not permit it. We would also like to play basketball.

FGN: How long have you played your sport?
Girls: For six years, we have played an annual cricket game that is organized by the school.

FGN: What have you learned about yourself by playing a sport?
Girls: By playing sport we have learned discipline, patience, and being physical.

FGN:  How are the opportunities for playing sports different for boys and girls your age? Are there some sports girls are not allowed to play?
Girls: It is easier for boys to play sports than girls because they are very strong and fit. It is difficult for girls to play sports like football because of the need to run around, which is hard with the clothes we wear (tunic, long pants and scarf).

FGN: What do your parents think about you playing a sport (or having the chance to play)?
Girls: Most of our parents have a negative attitude towards sports as they think that it creates a problem and controversy for girls to play sports. The more educated the parents are, the more positive or approving they are for us to play.

FGN: Do you ever watch sports on television — or in your community?
Girls: We watch men’s cricket and women and men’s tennis on TV. We do not really watch sport in the community because it’s mainly only boys that will play.

FGN: What is the best thing about playing a sport?
Girls: We like to practice sport as much as we can so that we become fit and strong and improve our skills.

FGN: Has playing a sport changed the way you think about your future?
Girls: Playing sport has allowed us to get exercise and we now know more about different sports and the benefits of playing sport. We also believe that it will be possible for us or other girls to play sport for our country and play internationally.

Team photo

  1. 3 Responses to “Sports for girls are more than play in Bangladesh, they’re tool for progress (even survival)”

  2. Great to hear that you courageous girls are taking a challenge to the boys’ club that sports traditonally is.

    Remember that girls can do anything!

    By Annie (New Zealand) on Nov 24, 2009

  3. Bangladeshi girls absolutely have no access to sports and physical activities. In a country where free movement of girls are prohibited as it is dangerous for the girls and the community, where girls are not considered as human being, where violence against girls is not an offence how women can dare to play?

    I am really confident that PHREB will make a difference. Good work.

    By Tania Mostari on Nov 27, 2009

  4. Girl’s and boy’s should be treated as equal for all.otherwise girl’s in this world will go behind the boy’s and PHREB is doing great job.keep going.

    By sadita on Feb 22, 2012

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