International Women's Day Special

Equal payments but no leading roles frustrate gold medalist Priya 

Karateka Marzan Akter Priya hurdled obstacles from within her family to take up sports as a profession. She won gold in karate in the 2019 South Asian Games. In an interview marking International Women’s Day on Wednesday, the fine arts student of Jagannath University talked to The Daily Star’s Anisur Rahman as she spoke about the special occasion and the scope and advancement of women in sports in general in the country.
Bangladesh's gold-medalist karateka Marzan Akter Priya. Photo: Collected

The Daily Star (DS): Today is International Women's Day. Tell us something about it from your perspective.

Marzan Akter Priya (MAP): There are many days that highlight different things and occasions. International Women's Day is such a day but I think every day is women's day. Because a mother is not just a mother for a day or a girl is not just a girl for a day. Neither it is the case for a wife. However, Women's Day is considered a special occasion for those who stay away from their mothers and sisters, and other family members as those members are remembered on this day. 

DS: Do you see enough women empowerment in our country's sports? 

MAP: In our country's sports, you see better results from female athletes than their male counterparts. Not only in sports, but the girls are also doing better than the boys in every other sector, including education. I don't see much difference between men and women athletes but men's approach toward women is different. It is a traditional flaw that can not be corrected overnight. For example, in our discipline, the male karateka believes that a female karateka can not lead the training session. They think the female athletes know nothing and are physically weaker than them, so, how will a female karateka lead?

DS: Do you think that the facilities for female athletes increased in the country? 

MAP: To be honest, the sectors have increased but not the facilities. Female athletes in different disciplines are being unearthed but they are not getting adequate facilities to hone their skills. If you are asking me about financial discrimination, I can tell you that there is no difference in pay scale for male and female karatekas. We get equal pay as karate is not a very popular sport.

DS: Female athletes usually face a lot of obstacles to come into sports. Do you still face such barriers from society and family?

MAP: Initially, my family did not support me. I don't face obstacles from my family anymore. But I do have to deal with different types of obstacles despite being a South Asian Games gold medallist. To be honest, when we are moving forward in our careers, new kinds of barriers emerge. For example, we talked about leadership in training earlier. I can't practise independently, rather I am instructed to follow someone. 

Once people asked why girls would play sports, but now I regularly hear questions like how long should a girl play sports, when will she get married? 

DS: Do you think the participation of women in sports has increased?

MAP: I think it has rapidly increased. If you look back at the recently concluded Youth Games, you will notice that the number of female athletes has increased significantly. And I think they are almost equal to their male counterparts.

DS: Where do you want to see the country's sports in the future?

MAP: I want to highlight sprinter Imranur Rahman who was grown up aboard in a totally different environment. He has been given a chance to represent Bangladesh at the international level in a bid to get success and he has received ample cash reward for his triumph of 60m sprint in the Asian Indoor Athletics Championships. I think, if the talented local athletes were groomed perfectly, then we could have achieved more than one Imranur. So, I urge the concerned authorities to give more emphasis on the local athletes in order to groom them for international competition instead of focusing majorly on expatriate athletes.