Bangladesh: Breaking stereotypes through cricket
"Cricket was always my dream sport. But because of my disability, when I was a child I used to get left out of the games that my friends played. It made me feel isolated," says Mahbub, a right-arm leg spin bowler from Sylhet District.
Things have changed now and cricket has become the platform through which Mahbub is able to showcase his abilities and skills, taking the focus off his disability. "In 2021, I represented Bangladesh at an international level cricket tournament," he proudly shares on the sidelines of a cricket tournament organized in November 2022 by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
Six local cricket teams of athletes with disabilities participated in the tournament, displaying their love for cricket through all-round performances. After a nail-biting final match, the Gopalganj Sporting Club lifted the trophy, defeating Tufan Physical Challenge Sporting Club from Satkhira District. The tournament was organized as part of the ICRC's efforts to empower people with disabilities through sports.
In Bangladesh, people with disabilities often face social barriers and disability evokes negative perceptions. As a result of the stigma, disabled people are often excluded from education, employment and community life, which deprives them of opportunities for social development, health and well-being.
Through the ICRC's Physical Rehabilitation Programme (PRP), together with the Centre for the Rehabilitation of the Paralysed (CRP), we help people with disabilities regain mobility so that they can lead a dignified life and play an active role in society. The project has helped hundreds of cricket enthusiasts like Mahbub to defy the odds and pursue their dreams.
Aminuddin, who is a government schoolteacher and has been playing cricket for people with disabilities since 2014, vouches that the sport has helped him showcase his talents and challenge stereotypes. Back on the pitch after a hiatus because of COVID-19 pandemic, the 42-year-old says, "We experienced a huge lag because we could not practice or play regularly, but the good news is that we have returned to the field with the same excitement and dedication."
The ICRC has been supporting sports for people with disabilities in Bangladesh since 2013 with the aim to transform the community's attitude towards the disabled by highlighting their capabilities. As part of these efforts, we organized the first ever international cricket tournament for people with disabilities in Bangladesh with the support of the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) in 2015. Five countries participated in that tournament. Over the years, we have also supported people with disabilities to join several other national and international tournaments in Bangladesh, United Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates.
Explaining the importance of sports for people with disabilities, Dhabaleswar Nanda, manager of the ICRC's physical rehabilitation programme, shares,
"We believe that sports for people with disabilities is a powerful tool for inclusion. It highlights innovation geared towards an accessible and equitable world. Such tournaments improve their physical capabilities and rehabilitate them to be integrated into society."
In Bangladesh, the ICRC works with its long-standing partner, the CRP, by supporting its physical rehabilitation centres. Since 2018, we have been helping people with disabilities generate income and gain financial independence under the microeconomic initiatives project. In Cox's Bazar, we continue to support people with disabilities among those displaced from Rakhine. We provide them with a referral pathway so that they can access physical rehabilitation services.