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Bangladeshi girls pitch for more recognition and opportunities

'The State of the World's Children 2011 – Adolescence: An Age of Opportunity,' UNICEF’s new flagship report, focuses on the development and rights of more than a billion children aged 10 to 19 worldwide. This series of stories, essays and multimedia features seeks to accelerate and elevate adolescents' fight against poverty, inequality and gender discrimination.

By Misha Hussain

CHITTAGONG, Bangladesh, 15 March 2011 – It’s rare to see young girls playing cricket in Bangladesh, but this was one competition where they dominated the field.

VIDEO: 1 FEBRUARY 2011 - UNICEF'S Jeannette Francis reports on how a cricket tournament is empowering young Bangladeshi women.  Watch in RealPlayer


Close to one hundred adolescent girls from across the southern regions of Chittagong and Cox’s Bazar took to the cricket pitch as part of a unique, UNICEF-supported cricket competition.

Bangladesh is a society where girls are often expected to stay at home, particularly in rural villages. But with the country co-hosting the 2011 Cricket World Cup with India and Sri Lanka, cricket fever is sweeping the nation. 

For the first time, young girls have been given the opportunity to compete in a national all-girl cricket tournament.

“In Bangladesh, girls have very little opportunity to participate in outdoor sports. People think girls should stay at home and cook,” said Rasheda Parvin, Adolescent Programme Manager at UNICEF partner Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC), a non-governmental organization dedicated to alleviating poverty by empowering the poor.

Power of sport

On a cricket pitch outside the Shere Bangla National Stadium in the city of Chittagong, two teams battled it out in the regional finals, showing off their skills with the bat and ball before a passionate crowd of mainly men and boys.

© UNICEF Bangladesh/2011/Mawa
Teammates cheer during an all-girl cricket match supported by UNICEF in the southern city of Chittagong, Bangladesh.

The tournament was held as part of the UNICEF-supported Adolescent Empowerment project, which is run in collaboration with BRAC and Centre of Mass Education in Science. It is funded by the European Union.

The project aims to empower young people – particularly girls – to become active agents of social change by helping them forge strong social networks within their families and communities.

The project also supports around 3,000 ‘Kishori’ clubs, or adolescent drop-in centers, across Bangladesh, which provide a venue for more than 100,000 young people to participate in discussions and workshops about issues that matter to them, such as early marriage, human rights, dowry, birth registration, transmission of diseases like HIV/AIDS, reproductive health, and drug abuse.

© UNICEF Bangladesh/2011/Mawa
Girls compete at cricket in Chittagong, Bangladesh. For the first time, they have been given the opportunity to compete in a national all-girl cricket tournament.

It also allows them a place to play sports, including cricket. For many of the girls, their first time playing cricket was through their local ‘Kishori’ club. “I had never played any outdoor sport until now,” said team vice-captain Aysha, 14, who is thankful for the teamwork skills she has learned at her local club. “It has taught me that if you work together, you really can achieve anything.”

Transferable skills

Many of the girls come from rural, traditional villages where socio-economic and political domains are conventionally seen as exclusively male.

“By giving the girls the opportunity to play cricket and work together as a team to reach a common goal, we leave them with a set of transferable skills which can be applied in everyday life,” said Rasheda.

© UNICEF Bangladesh/2011/Mawa
Bangladesh is a society where girls are often expected to stay at home. Here, two girls celebrate scoring a run during an all-girl cricket match in Chittagong, Bangladesh.

The players said taking part in the tournament has given them new skills and extra confidence. “We very much enjoy playing cricket,” said Misha, 16. “It keeps us healthy and clears the mind. We are very happy that we got the opportunity to play in this tournament.”

The number of adolescent girls’ cricket teams across Bangladesh has risen from 14 to 52 since they were first formed in late 2009. It is hoped this number will double by the end of the year.



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