Move over Kelly Slater and Stephanie Gilmore, there’s a new surfer making waves around the globe! Meet 18 year old Nasima Akter from Bangladesh, one of the very few Asian countries that has a female Prime Minister – Sheikh Hasina who was elected in 2009.
The predominantly Muslim country is counted as the 8th most populous country in the world with an estimated 160 million people inhabiting it. Despite it being considered a Next Eleven emerging economy, Bangladesh faces numerous political, social and economic instabilities and poverty is rife. Bangladesh is also the second largest textile and garment producer in the world behind China.
Needless to say it is not a nation known for its female sporting dominance, but one young woman is set to change that with her inspiring story and determination to break social taboos that plague poor women in the country.
Nasima became homeless at just 7 years old after her parents kicked her out for not becoming a prostitute, a common practice for poor young women to become involved in in order to provide for their families and not become a financial burden.
Nasima eventually found her way to the surfing community of Cox’s Bazaar, where she learned to surf and even became better than some of the boys.
But her joy of getting in the water and being part of an accepting community hasn’t always been easy for Nasima. The country is still very conservative and it is frowned upon for women to swim in public. Despite being called a “whore”, although she surfs fully clothed, Nasima is determined to surf and break barriers for other young women.
Her story is going to spread even further as she is the subject of a forthcoming documentary called ‘The Most Fearless’, made by Californian documentary filmmaker Heather Kissinger. She has been following Nasima’s story and filming her life for the feature length documentary, which Heather will be submitting to film festivals.
Heather and her crew successfully raised money via a Kickstarter campaign in order to finish the film and get it out to the masses.
“This film touches on the current conversation about youth culture, women’s rights, the clash and complement between east and west. This film challenges us to examine our own expectations of what is fair, just and what is possible in this world for any of us,” says the description on the campaign page.
“Nasima wants to be a good Muslim wife and a respectable part of her community—but she’s completely unwilling to let go of her passion for surfing for that,” Heather told Marie Claire in an interview.
“And by telling her story, she’s broken the barrier for all girls to do the same,” she added.
Nasima was forced to marry when she was young and now has a child. She has also won surfing contests at Cox’s Bazaar previously, but after local Muslim Clerics saw the influx of other young girls following in her wake, they issued a ban on women surfing. That has not stopped Nasima as she continues to surf.
It’s not uncommon these days to hear stories of young girls and young women, from countries where females are not considered equal, go against social traditions that restrict their opportunities simply because of their gender. Activists, musicians, politicians and now a surfer are proving women are willing to stand up, face opposition in order to help pave the way for many others in their wake to step into an empowered future.
We hope this documentary will reach the eyes and ears of many girls around the world, and we also hope it will inspire anyone who is in caught in a difficult circumstance to never give up fighting for what is right and for positive opportunities in life.
Check out the trailer for ‘The Most Fearless’ below: