With the tagline, 'Future is Female', a two-day online inter-school debate tournament, BDC Fempowerment 2020, was organised by Bangladesh Debating Council (BDC) recently. BDC Fempowerment is the first ever debate tournament, organised by women for women.
The young bunch of powerful and talented debaters has been rapidly taking Bangladeshi debate to greater heights at the world stage. However, this change is mostly driven by males, as females still have to overcome several obstacles to participate in debates as an extra-curricular activity. Even though female debaters are working wonders on their own, the need to recognise and acknowledge the struggles of a female debater is ever more present. This tournament was organised to give female debaters a platform to demonstrate their talents.
"We always wanted to do something for young girls, providing them with the opportunities that we never had when we were in school," shares Tabassum Khan Prithi.
Led by Prithi, the Tournament Convener and Vice-Chair of BDC from Institution of Business Administration, University of Dhaka, the six-member organising committee includes Rifat Zabeen Khan from University of Dhaka, Fatima Ara Khan from Independent University Bangladesh, Parinda Rahman from North South University and Nayara Noor and Aliya Fairuz from BRAC University. The team successfully pulled off the online event, inspiring female debaters across the country.
50 school teams of 150 debaters from Dhaka, Chattogram, Rangpur and Sylhet participated at the event. After the five preliminary rounds of debate on the first day, the second day of the tournament hosted the quarterfinals and semifinals of open and novice categories.
In the closing ceremony, which was streamed live on Facebook along with the debaters, the top 10 non-cis male adjudicators were recognised. "It was an honour for us to witness history being made with such a huge pool of non-cis male adjudicators at the event," expresses Momotaz Rahman Megha.
Viqarunnisa Noon School and College was the open champion, while Sunnydale was the runner-up. In the novice category, designed for the new debaters in the circuit, Scholastica Uttara was the champion and Ideal School and College was the runner-up. Adhara Ayndrila from Sunnydale and Nazwa Nasheeta Rahman from Scholastica Uttara jointly won the title of Best Speaker.
"Most of the prestigious tournaments and workshops are Dhaka-centric, which is a barrier for us," shares Afiea Ibnat Suchi, a novice participant from The Millennium Stars School and College, Rangpur. "BDC Fempowerment was an amazing experience and we are grateful to BDC for the support."
The top 10 speakers of BDC Fempowerment will take part in an exclusive training programme, Shevolution Training Academy, with specialised training sessions and access to the National Camp, a debate boot camp where a multi-step selection process selects five individuals to participate in The World School Debating Championship (WSDC), considered as the World Cup of debate.
Sher May Nar from National University of Singapore, Lubaba Mehzabeen from University of Dhaka, Klaudia Maciejewska from SGH Warsaw School of Economics, Poland, Vee Nis Ling from NYU Abu Dhabi, Nayara Noor from BRAC University, Momotaz Rahman Megha from North South University and Ellen Thurlow from Australian National University, were members of the core adjudication panel, while 70 local and international adjudicators participated at the event.
"We are overwhelmed by the novice debaters' amazing performances and we hope that they continue in this direction and keep working hard," expresses Prithi.
The promo video of BDC Fempowerment was a huge success, reaching fifty thousand people worldwide in three days. It was a compilation of clips, with the song, Brave, by Sara Bareilles. The singer retweeted the promo video herself, showing support for the tournament, with the hashtag, #fempowerment
This year, the BDC Fempowerment organising committee also launched a training academy, Hackerwom*n Initiative. Aspiring women and tech enthusiasts from all over Bangladesh and India joined the initiative.
In 2019, BDC launched Shevolution, a women's school oympiad, which included debate, art, poetry and wall-magazine competitions for school students, pioneering the idea of competitions for women by women. Shevolution was initiated to inspire school girls to develop their leadership skills.
BDC Fempowerment was a huge step for the future of female debaters in the country. With the hope to garner equal opportunities in the male-dominated debate scene, BDC marches on with their trailblazing and committed female members.