Breaking traditions – Girls Kabadi

Dhaka 2009
Womens athletics is heading a new frontier in Bangladesh. Being a Muslim country, women did not share the same opportunities as men when it comes to competitive sports. This is a story about the close ties a group of brave women formed, while starting new traditions in Bangladesh.
Kabadi, a team contact sport, is the National sport in Bangladesh. In 2009 a team was fielded for the South Asian Games in 2010. A one-year training camp was established at the Womens Complex in Dhaka, in preparation for the games. This was a great victory for women rights considering that women have only briefly participated in sports for the last ten years. Out of approximately 80 million women in Bangladesh, only 15 000 women practice sports at a higher level.
Women from all over the country were fielded to form the team, most of them from poor families. Being athletes also mean that the girls have a chance to escape from poverty for a few years. Many of them dream of an education after their sports career is over, however, few get to realize their dreams due to poverty. Sharing the same insecurities and challenges in life, these girls have forged impeccably tight bonds. Their  display of unity and strength on the turf echoes their determination in handling lifes challenges as their fight extends beyond Kabadi.

Chakma Rupanada having a stretch after workout.

Chakma Rupanada having a stretch after workout.

Khatoon Sharifa has a fever and is allowed to take a break from training.

Khatoon Sharifa has a fever and is allowed to take a break from training.

From the left  Nihida Akhtar, Chakma Rupanada and Dali Shefali are digging into their first meal of the day.

From the left Nihida Akhtar, Chakma Rupanada and Dali Shefali are digging into their first meal of the day.

From the left,  Juni Chakma and Nihida Akhtar.

From the left, Juni Chakma and Nihida Akhtar.

In the bathroom after work-out. From the left, Hena Akhtar, Ismat Ara and Shamsun Nahar.

In the bathroom after work-out. From the left, Hena Akhtar, Ismat Ara and Shamsun Nahar.

Kazi Shahin Ara washing her laundry. Many of the girls do not get to see their families throughout the whole year when they are enrolled in the program.

Kazi Shahin Ara washing her laundry. Many of the girls do not get to see their families throughout the whole year when they are enrolled in the program.

From the left, Juni Chakma,  Chakma Rupanada and Nihida Akhtar.

From the left, Juni Chakma, Chakma Rupanada and Nihida Akhtar.

From the left: Jui Akhtar and Farzana Akhtar. They spend much of their time gossiping about the boys at home. Many of the girls dream of an education after their sports career is over. However, few get to realize their dreams.

From the left: Jui Akhtar and Farzana Akhtar. They spend much of their time gossiping about the boys at home. Many of the girls dream of an education after their sports career is over. However, few get to realize their dreams.

Chakma Rupanada.

Chakma Rupanada.

At the afternoon work-out session, Malika Akhtar is practicing kicking-techniques.

At the afternoon work-out session, Malika Akhtar is practicing kicking-techniques.

Kabadi is a contact sport and can get a little rough. From the left: Jahirul Haque, Farzana Akhtar, Kohinur Akhtar, Khatoon Sharifa, Chamsun Nahar, Antara Akhtar & Malika Akhtar

Kabadi is a contact sport and can get a little rough. From the left: Jahirul Haque, Farzana Akhtar, Kohinur Akhtar, Khatoon Sharifa, Chamsun Nahar, Antara Akhtar & Malika Akhtar

From the left, Mallinka Akhtar, Juni Chakma, Farzana Akhtar and Shila Akhtar.

From the left, Mallinka Akhtar, Juni Chakma, Farzana Akhtar and Shila Akhtar.

Mallinka Akhtar. It’ hard to catch some sleep during the daytime as four girls share a room.

Mallinka Akhtar. It’ hard to catch some sleep during the daytime as four girls share a room.