SAFF football victory stirs hopes of emboldening women to ‘break taboos’

The SAFF Championship win shows that women can move forward despite all odds, say activists and distinguished women

Kazi Nafia Rahman, Staff
Published : 21 Sept 2022, 09:50 PM
Updated : 21 Sept 2022, 09:50 PM

The achievements of Bangladesh’s female footballers, who have clinched their maiden SAFF Championship title, have come as an inspiration to break down social taboos surrounding women in Bangladesh, activists and prominent women say.

They feel the win has shown women can move forward braving all odds.

Bangladesh thrashed five-time finalists and hosts Nepal 3-1 to win the title in Kathmandu on Monday, having earlier edged defending champions India in the group stage.

The victory is expected to embolden women not only in sports, but also in every field. Women can wade through social challenges to make tremendous progress in their fields.

With equal opportunities as men, they can accomplish more.

Rights activist Maleka Banu sees the victory as not only a success, but a huge achievement in breaking societal taboos.

The footballers’ successful struggle to overcome various obstacles in society should also be celebrated, she said.

“As girls move forward, there is a tendency to pull them back. In such a hostile environment, the level they have reached is not only a success for themselves. They have brought great achievements to the country. They wanted to come in an open-top bus. Meaning they don't want to stay in a closed room. They want the world to be open to them.”

“There are many girls from minority communities here. They are far behind others. But because of them, today the flag of the country flies with dignity. We must show due dignity and respect to these women.”

Professor Sadeka Halim, chairman of the Department of Sociology at Dhaka University, said the female players are underpaid and they face discrimination even after reaching the national level.

“We won’t understand the struggle they have been through. They wanted to get into the country in an open-top bus and hand over the trophy to the country's people. They have proved that they can do a lot in exchange for a little help.”

The SAFF win will change the mindset of parents who consider girls as a burden, she said.

Many people have criticised women playing football, especially for short dresses as men, even amid the celebrations. “This is nothing new, but a great weapon to control women.”

“After 50 years of independence, why do we say such things? They didn't play in indecent clothes, they wore the same sports clothes as men’s. Bangladesh is no longer in a position to prevent them from playing by talking about clothes.”

Sabrina Sultana, one of the most successful shooters in Bangladesh, believes that the crown of South Asian football will immensely inspire women in every field.

“Such a big achievement in football cannot be expressed in words. Usually, I don't watch the game, but I have watched their game. I am very happy with this win.”

Suggesting more opportunities for women footballers, the Commonwealth and South Asian Games gold-medallist said, “They need more training. They should increase their fitness. The government should ensure that they do not need to look back.”

The Bangladesh women's cricket team became the champion in the Women's Asia Cup T20 tournament. After becoming the best in South Asia in football, national team cricketer Shathira Jakir Jessy said the victories will make it easier for women to come to the sports arena.

"It has been proven that girls can also play well. Parents will now understand that it is possible to build a career in sports. Many of those who do not allow [their children] to play worrying about the future will now be interested in sports after such a big success.”

Jessy asked the government to pay attention to the fact that women are getting far fewer facilities than male athletes.

Mahfuza Khanam, a professor of psychology at Dhaka University, believes that the SAFF Championship will have a big impact on women's society. Parents will be encouraged. They will allow the girls who are inclined to play.

“They also proved that women can do everything. It will remain a huge inspiration. And psychologically it will help to understand that religion is one thing and establishing oneself in a field is another.”

Criticising the critics of women's clothing, the professor said, "Achieving something is great. Clothing should not be a barrier to achieving that."

Toufique Imrose Khalidi
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher