TTT #37: "Empowering Women Through Sports" with Gulnahar Mahbub Monika

The Tomato Timer Oct 18, 2020

Picture this. You discover something you are deeply passionate about. You perseveringly work towards it for over a decade, prioritize it over everything else to have a successful career. But what if the idea of a successful career does not practically exist in that area? This picture is all too real for young girls in Bangladesh and beyond inclined towards sports.

Gulnahar Mahbub Monika represented Bangladesh as a part of the national basketball team in 2018. Despite making to that level, she and all her teammates were required to have a job to sustain themselves. Due to the need to incorporate a flexible schedule that many jobs do not provide, she was often forced to quit and look for new jobs.

The problem, though, is a lot more systemic. The social and cultural influences seem to dissociate girls from sports completely. There is the unavailability of safe space for girls to practice, a lack of tournaments for them to participate in.  And then we have the media narratives, the casual discouragement, and the general conversation. Almost everything functions dynamically to project female athletes in a certain way, depriving them of the opportunity to even consider making a choice regarding being a professional sportsperson.

She talks about the need to create change in our own respective families that might hold stereotypical views themselves.

If I cannot convince my parents, how can I convince the society?

She also urges male members to speak along, utilize their privileges, and extend them as a means of support.

Gulnahar could never have enough opportunities in a society that is yet to recognize female sportspersons equally. But how many more passionate athletes will stay tied within all this? Today, Gulnahar’s organization, Deshi Ballers, functions with one goal: empowering women through sports, hopefully reducing gender inequalities.


Ritika Singhal

Along with Zubair Junjunia

Senior year student passionate about social justice and inclusive reform | she/her