A teenage girl learning how to surf doesn’t turn heads around most coastal towns in first world countries, but in Bangladesh (a Muslim country that borders India), 18-year-old local surfer Nasima Akter is persevering her passion for surfing, despite criticism from their conservative culture.
Bangladesh is a Muslim country that practices Islam. Cox’s Bazar is where Nasima lives and is the longest continual natural beach in the world (125km). This region is one of the poorest and most neglected areas of Bangladesh, with the highest illiteracy rate. Young girls are expected to work from a young age. They can play in the water, wear short sleeves but they don’t usually wear short pants. When a girl gets to be 12 to 14-years-old, she’s expected to keep her arms and legs covered.
It’s hard to imagine growing up without the freedom to surf. Nasima and the other surfer girls in Bangladesh are dictated by their culture and controlling husbands. The only place they completely feel free is the water.
We’re so inspired by Brown Girl Surf, dedicated to fostering a diverse, alternative women’s surf community out of the San Fransisco Bay area.
They introduced the Bangladesh Surfer Girl Project in 2013, which provides free scholarships to distressed (orphan) girls and disabled girls, irrespective of race, religion, ideology or politics, including child friendly quality education and sports and cultural training opportunities. It also provides medical care, clothing, protection and legal advice, nutritional support, housing and all other kinds of assistance to prepare the girls for a better life as independent women.
They’ve also created the above short film. From this video you can see, that despite their daily struggles, the joy of surfing they experience is undeniable.
We generally define a culture from the stories we hear, and with the news focused on fear and tragedy, it’s inspiring and uplifting to shift away from pessimism to positivity. With the aim to promote goodness, you only inspire greatness.
Photo credits: Heather Kessinger