Although now widely acclaimed at home and abroad for her performance as a former member of the national football and cricket teams, Champa Chakma did not have it easy on the way to success.
This young indigenous woman from the hill district of Rangamati had to face criticisms of her neighbours and even endure a beating once for wanting to play with her male friends.
“Overcoming many hurdles, I have reached this stage. Now I can walk holding my head high,” said Champa yesterday.
She was sharing her life's story at a programme organised by the Bangladesh chapter of One Billion Rising for Justice, a global movement to end violence against women, in the capital's Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy.
Like her, transgender activist Joya Sikder, domestic violence survivor Farjahan Rahman Shaon, tech freelancer Qurat-ul-Ain Nazuba, visually impaired banker Farzana Akhter and acid attack survivor Nurun Nahar revealed their stories of braving all odds and finally making it through.
Shaon, a single mother, said although the law permits a woman to divorce her husband, society cannot accept it. “People of our society are not mentally prepared to accept a divorcee woman. So the women have to face problems at every single step.”
“Barriers will come but one should not lose courage...Unless we change ourselves, society will not change...We have to continue our fight,” said the schoolteacher.
Joya said the government recognition of the Hijra community would not solve all the problems they have been facing throughout their lives.
“We are humans too. We are also citizens of the state. Why are we looked down upon,” Joya said adding, “However, time has come for us to speak out.”
One Billion Rising For Justice is a global call to women survivors of violence and those who love them to gather safely on February 14 near places where they are entitled to justice.
It is a call to survivors to break the silence and release their stories, politically, spiritually, outrageously, through art, dance, marches, rituals, songs, spoken words, testimonies and whatever way feels right.
Like last year, people across the world will take to the streets on February 14 with the commitment to put an end to violence against women and seeking justice for such violence.