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The power of sport

Cricket is to Bangladesh as hockey is to Canada. And in Hatibandha, seeing boys and men out on the pitch is a fond and familiar sight. It’s also a rare opportunity for this hard working community to come together for some enjoyment and sports.

With your help, Hatibandha just gave this old favourite a new twist with its first-ever girls’ tournament.

Girls from a community in Bangladesh play cricket

The girls of Hatibandha impress the community with their cricket skills.

“I did not believe that girls could play such beautiful cricket!” says one of the community’s head teachers. “I would like to give credit to Plan for helping us challenge that traditional mentality.”

Indeed, cricket has been an exclusively male sport in this community until now. Eager to break this barrier, we worked closely with community members to put on this ground-breaking tournament, which turned out to be a huge success, drawing 800 people – nearly the entire community – to cheer the girls on.

An audience watches a girls cricket tournament in Bangladesh

Spectators look on while the tournament is under way.

“Being a girl, I could never have imagined that I would play cricket,” says Sima, one of the players. “But after these games, I realize that girls can do everything!”

In the weeks leading up to the tournament, girls practiced long hours, excited by the prospect of playing in front of family, friends and neighbours. In total, four teams participated, showcasing the skills of over 40 girls. Trophies were awarded to the champion and runner-up teams, but everyone walked away a winner.

Champion trophy with Parulia school team

The champions pose with their trophy.

In addition to challenging stereotypes and boosting the profile and confidence of girls, the event and its turnout offered a unique opportunity to engage community members on a current development priority: hygiene and sanitation.

Investing in new water systems and latrines, the community now has the chance to reduce infectious disease. But that also requires behaviour change, so the tournament was used to disseminate vital information about the importance of latrine use and hand washing – by everyone – for protecting the local water supply and public health.

Before and after the tournament, community members listened to speakers, took part in discussions and made a pledge to keep their homes, schools and community safe from water-borne disease.

Girls in Hatibandha playing cricket together

Girls have developed a new love for the game.

Best of all, the excitement of the game has not worn off.

“Before Plan started working here, there was no opportunity for girls to play games in the community,” says 12-year-old Rojina. “But now we play cricket and other games in the open field. Our parents and seniors are actually encouraging us to play!”

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