In Bangladesh, International Inspiration is using sport and play to empower girls, provide opportunities for children with a disability and promote intercultural dialogue. Importantly, in a country prone to flooding, more than 250,000 children are learning survival swimming. This is all the more remarkable given the programme has only been in place since mid-2009.
'Before International Inspiration I didn’t have discipline and I didn’t know how to interact with different people. Now that has changed, I am disciplined and I enjoy leading other students.'Afrina, young leader, Bangladesh
Young leaders are also being developed through the programme, in partnership with the Ministry of Youth and Sport. All 172 secondary schools in the Manikgoni District will receive training in youth sport leadership, leading to 86,000 pupils gaining access to high-quality physical education (PE) and sport.
Reasons to celebrate
- 80,000 children have learned swimming survival techniques.
- 125,000 children and young people have taken part in indoor and outdoor sports, including athletics, football, cricket and volleyball.
- 200,000 parents and community leaders are actively supporting girls’ engagement in International Inspiration.
Nearly one in three girls in Bangladesh are married by the age of 15. International Inspiration is helping to tackle social norms such as this. Eleven thousand girls have had the opportunity to try sports like athletics, cricket and volleyball in a safe environment, with these events serving as a platform to strengthen their self-confidence and their belief that they have the right to make the decisions that shape their lives.
Currently, there is a tragically high prevalence of drowning in Bangladesh: by the age of 10, fewer than half of children know how to swim, and annually an estimated 17,000 children drown. International Inspiration is working with the Bangladesh Swimming Federation on a SwimSafe project, teaching survival-swimming techniques to non-swimmers.
Developing school sport and training teachers
There is also a lack of infrastructure and facilities for sport and PE in schools and few trained PE teachers. International Inspiration is helping to address this by providing training and resources to enable teachers to organise sports festivals as we as introduce weekly PE classes.
Swimming for lifeParvez was a shy 10-year old boy from the slums of Mirpur near the capital Dhaka when he was first spotted by the Bangladesh Swimming Federation. Parvez was one of a bus full of five to 10-year-old children, embarking on their first lesson in survival swimming. As soon as he got into the water, Parvez’s natural swimming talent was obvious.
Swimming for life
Before he learned how to swim, Parvez had only managed to complete one term of school. He was destined to become a rickshaw driver like his uncle. Thanks to International Inspiration’s SwimSafe project, Parvez’s fortunes have transformed and he is one of 15 young swimmers whose potential has placed him on the Federation’s talent development pathway. Now coaches regard him as a future national butterfly champion and possible even an international competitor.
'Before I started the swimming lessons, I was a bit scared of the water. I wanted to play with my friends so I would still go, but I'd stay in the shallow parts. Now I swim anywhere.'Parvez, 10
His achievements have also inspired his friends to follow in his footsteps and take up swimming: 'Now a lot of my friends want to take swimming lessons too, and a lot of them already have.'
Addressing the gender divide
International Inspiration is helping to address gender inequality in a society where one in three girls are married before the age of 15 – this has a significant impact on girls’ school attendance, especially in rural areas. International Inspiration is using sport as a tool to build self-esteem and confidence and help empower girls attending youth centres.
Girls are being given key-life skills through sport leadership training and peer mentoring, and in turn can become more visible in their community. Through this peer-to-peer approach, girls are engaging in facilitated discussions on social issues that may affect them such as early marriage, the practice of dowry or reproductive health issues. As a result of advocacy campaigns, over 200,000 parents and community leaders are now actively supporting girls’ engagement in the programme.
Seventeen-year-old Khaleda, is one girl who has benefitted: 'Before I was involved with the project, my parents didn’t listen to my voice. Now, they respect my decisions and opinions.'