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The Most Fearless: Nasima Akter is pioneering women's surfing inwards Bangladesh

The Most Fearless: Nasima Akter. Photo past times Kamrul Hasan.

Influenza A virus subtype H5N1 teenage immature lady learning how to surf doesn’t plough heads approximately most coastal towns inwards first off globe countries, but inwards People's Republic of Bangladesh (a Muslim terra firma that borders India), 18-year-old local surfer Nasima Akter is the champaign of study of stares together with neighborhood gossip.

It’s difficult to imagine growing upward without the liberty to surf inwards beautiful places together with dream what nosotros desire to live when nosotros grow up, which is why Nasima’s story every bit a pioneering woman someone surfer inwards People's Republic of Bangladesh  immediately grabbed us the same agency it did documentary filmmaker Heather Kessinger. “I was hooked early amongst the thought of Nasima pushing through these challenges,” says Heather, who (along amongst GoodPeople surf) introduced us to Nasima's story. “She’s gone through incredible changes inwards her life. It’s non every bit elementary every bit i immature lady overcoming dandy odds to becoming a dandy surfer.”

Heather happened upon Nasima’s story buried inwards a few sentences of an Afar go magazine article inwards 2009 past times Jaimal Yogis almost surfing inwards Bangladesh. Her documentary filmmaker calorie-free bulb lit up, leading her to rail downward Nasima inwards People's Republic of Bangladesh amongst a celluloid crew (just inwards case) to investigate the story.

Nasima inwards traditional attire. Photo past times Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan Dozzi.

“It was clear pretty speedily that nosotros should start filming,” Heather says of her initial encounters amongst Nasima to a greater extent than than 2 years ago. Since that first off trip to Bangladesh, the San Francisco-based filmmaker together with the cinematographer, Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan Dozzi have got spent months at a fourth dimension filming amongst the community inwards Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh. The working championship of Nasima’s story is called The Most Fearless (check out the trailer below) together with has already been getting attending together with an online following.


The Most Fearless (short trailer) from Heather Kessinger on Vimeo.


Between making a fossil oil cutting of the documentary celluloid together with entering festival screenings, nosotros caught upward amongst Heather dorsum abode inwards the Bay Area to larn almost the civilization together with socioeconomic landscape of People's Republic of Bangladesh together with how Nasima’s story fits inside it.

Influenza A virus subtype H5N1 few days later, nosotros got to speak amongst Nasima straight via Skype for a brief fourth dimension inwards betwixt dinner together with a sketchy Internet connection.

Cityscape inwards Dhaka, the uppercase of Bangladesh. Photo past times Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan Dozzi.
A few of the Cox's Bazar Surf & Lifesaving Club Members. Lifeguarding is a relatively novel project chance for surfers inwards Bangladesh. Photo past times Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan Dozzi. 

What is the civilization of People's Republic of Bangladesh like? 

Heather Kessinger: People's Republic of Bangladesh is a Muslim terra firma that practices Islam. It’s a fairly moderate country. Cox’s Bazar [where Nasima lives] is to a greater extent than conservative than the terra firma every bit a whole. Young girls tin give the axe play inwards the water, have on brusk sleeves but they don’t ordinarily have on brusk pants. When a immature lady gets to live 12 to 14-years-old, she’s expected to continue her arms together with legs covered. These girls together with Nasima surfed inwards balloon-y Indian pants together with a cotton fiber human knee length tunic together with scarf. Now amongst the products from Seea, she has total sleeved rashguard together with they are non super tight. She is getting away amongst that — for now.

Nearby Cox’s Bazar is St. Martin’s Island, a coral isle amongst fun surf breaks that’s accessible past times a ferry ride. Here, a see from exiting off the ferry to St. Martin’s Island.  Photo past times Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan Dozzi. 
The beach of St. Martin's Island at dusk. Photo past times Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan Dozzi.
Nasima at the beach. Photo past times Kamrul Hasan.

What does the beach of Cox’s Bazar facial expression like?

It’s something similar eighty miles long together with is claimed to live the world's longest beach. It’s insanely beautiful together with oftentimes where nosotros are is a long sloping shallow break. There’s i principal river together with all these tributaries amongst sand shifting. The H2O is a crazy color, similar chai. In Cox’s Bazar, at that spot are 2 or iii beaches that are pop for surfing. You arrive a tuk tuk, ride for xv minutes together with acquire where no i has surfed before.

What is life similar for a typical People's Republic of Bangladesh immature lady approximately Nasima’s age? 
Girls acquire married really young. [Nasima] was 16-years-old when nosotros met her. She had but gotten married. That was considered late. In this case, it was her choice. Nasima is to a greater extent than mature than the typical 18-year-old hither inwards the West. Her childhood was non a childhood that nosotros would recognize. She had to figure out how to work, how to feed herself. But at the destination of the day, teenage girls are teenage girls. So much of who she is similar to immature people here.

Nasima at home. Photo past times Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan Dozzi.

What was the journeying that you lot saw Nasima acquire through inwards her personal life patch filming? 

She was inwards together with out of bad together with abusive marriage. At whatever moment, she powerfulness live working actually difficult to assert her independence together with inwards some other moment, she’s a teenage immature lady who vicious for the incorrect guy. What has been actually amazing on the finally production trip is nosotros were able to convey inwards Seea every bit purpose of the story, together with Good People arranged for a custom surfboard to live shaped for her. I mean value bringing inwards a existent sponsor, validation from the outside, she’s grabbed onto the thought of her responsibleness to surfing. These validating things are tangible for her.

On the street inwards Bangladesh. Photo past times Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan Dozzi. 
Cinematographer of The Most Fearless, Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan Dozzi at go inwards Bangladesh. 

What is the economic scheme inwards Bangladesh? 

So many immature kids, boys together with girls are inwards extreme poverty. They oftentimes can’t fifty-fifty acquire to school. They go whatever agency they can. Before Nasima got married, she sold trinkets on the beach or collected recycling. Young boys together with girls are expected to convey coin into the household. It's a luxury to able to attend schoolhouse every bit a kid for the poorer families.

What are the options for immature women growing upward inwards Bangladesh?

To acquire married, accept attention of your husband, have got lots of children together with accept attention of the home. I’ve met enough of women who did acquire to school, but immature girls who are born into poverty — at that spot aren’t options. Can i immature lady enhance herself out of poverty through surfing? Nasima has shown that she can, bur for most the reply is no, together with their lives are incredibly hard.

Dropping inwards at the beach. Photo past times Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan Dozzi. 
One of the boys inwards Bangladesh. Photo past times Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan Dozzi.

What’s the history of surfing inwards Bangladesh?

Surfing is barely ten-years-old inwards Bangladesh. There is no history of going into the H2O for enjoyment. As People's Republic of Bangladesh is nearly 50% H2O past times area, H2O has e'er been almost go (fishing) or threatening (monsoons, shifting sea levels). Bangladeshi's are entirely but kickoff to uncovering their coastline.

Though inwards the finally distich of years at that spot has been to a greater extent than press almost surfing (we fifty-fifty collaborated amongst a local Al Jazeera reporter to do a intelligence characteristic on Nasima) together with advertisers have got also started promoting the luxury of 'beach life.'  Grameen Bank inwards People's Republic of Bangladesh had a whole displace that featured surfers enjoying the waves together with beaches.

Inside a lifesaving pedagogy class, led past times Shahadat Hosen. Photo past times Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan Dozzi.
One of the locals, Kamrul Hasan, at nowadays making surf fins. Photo past times Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan Dozzi.

How could girls or boys brand coin from surfing?

There are tourists coming at that spot from inside People's Republic of Bangladesh who have got money, are from the uppercase together with starting to opor-garai there. They are discovering their beaches. There is a handful coming from Republic of Republic of India together with Southeast Asia. There are a few Western tourists.

Tourists are coming to the beach looking for surf lessons. To go every bit a lifeguard is a really novel alternative for strong, talented surfers. Nasima was the first off immature lady to live trained every bit a lifeguard inwards the country. Just going inwards the H2O is thus novel to Bangladesh; 18,000 people, by together with large kids, drown inwards People's Republic of Bangladesh every year, making it imperative that lifeguarding come upward to the beaches. Because the numbers of drownings inwards the terra firma is considered epidemic, RNLI (Royal Navy Lifeboat Institution  out of the UK) has trained the first off lifeguards ever inwards Bangladesh. Now People's Republic of Bangladesh has globe shape lifeguards patrolling their principal surf beach.

Nasima surfing inwards cotton fiber pants together with shirt earlier she had whatever other surf gear. Photo past times Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan Dozzi.

What is it almost surfing that has the ability to brand a change? 

My promise for Nasima is that people could reckon what she has done – what she is doing, together with reckon that same potential inwards themselves, “If she tin give the axe do this, thus I tin give the axe do this too. I should live able to do XYZ.”

Just earlier leaving for our finally production trip I got an electronic mail from Rashed Alam, the leader of the surf lodge together with he said “We've been teaching some of the immature girls working on the beach to surf together with I'd similar to live able to give them something. Would you lot live able to convey a few have on donations for them?” I don't mean value that he realized what he said inwards that elementary message.

Two years agone at that spot were no immature girls surfing, or it was entirely a fleeting involvement because at that spot was a celluloid crew there.  What he was telling me was that something inwards the community had shifted. The immature girls he was teaching actively wanted to surf together with acquire into the H2O —because of the surfing. These immature girls took it upon themselves together with had the initiative. We witnessed this shift. It’s pretty amazing. We innovation include these immature girls inwards the film. They are the embodiment of promise together with change. It’s true, immature girls together with kids anywhere volition reckon they are having a blast. They are non dandy surfers nonetheless — but they volition be! It's an incredible development from but 2 years agone when Nasima was the entirely immature lady surfing. And you lot should reckon them on skateboards!

Little rippers. Photo past times Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan Dozzi. 

What were your expectations when you lot started filming together with what did you lot uncovering every bit you lot explored deeper into the story? 

For me going into the story, I but expected that the biggest challenge would live coming from the religion or pressures of culture. I was wrong. So much of the pressure level is economical together with almost basic survival inside the context of their culture.

If Nasima tin give the axe figure out a agency to accept attention of herself, feed herself together with have got command of her life economically, I mean value things volition start to shift. Girl or boy, if someone is an amazing surfer together with at that spot is an avenue for them to live able to convey income inwards — the women together with girls are really powerless inwards that place.

Amina, some other immature lady who has taken upward surfing inwards Bangladesh. Photo past times Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan Dozzi.


What are Nasima’s goals together with aspirations inwards life?

So many girls together with women are completely unfamiliar of the concept of their ain aspirations. On the first off production trip I recall trying to have got a conversation amongst a woman bring upward to inquire permission to reckon if her immature lady tin give the axe come upward surfing amongst us. The woman bring upward sat far behind her husband. At each inquiry entirely the manful someone bring upward would answer. Even the human being that was our translator that twenty-four hr menstruation would non inquire the woman bring upward what she thought. I finally stopped the interview together with insisted that our translator inquire the woman bring upward thus that at that spot would me no fault that I was cry for for her opinion.

The woman bring upward quite literally did non know what to say. Even amongst the incredible linguistic communication barrier I had the distinct sense that she wanted to answer, but that no i had asked her for her persuasion — ever. And she didn't know how to give it. This was heartbreaking inwards the minute because I could entirely mean value almost what hereafter these amazing immature girls were facing.

Nasima is the exception. Nasima is a burn pistol. She started surfing amongst no expectations. She did it because she felt complimentary when she was doing it, she volition tell 'I forget all my problem when I surf'. She does dream, she would beloved to go together with surf approximately the world.

Meet Nasima. Photo past times Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan Dozzi. 

A few days later, nosotros got to Skype amongst Nasima for a brief fourth dimension inwards betwixt dinner time!

Hi Nasima! Did you lot surf today?

Nasima Akter: No, I am non surfing today because I am non feeling good.

Sorry to hear that. What almost your friends? How many girls do you lot ordinarily acquire surfing with?

[There are 7 girls] that are ix to 12-years-old. Before at that spot are many surfer [girls] but they are married at nowadays thus non possible to come upward surfing — at nowadays entirely modest girls.

Why don’t to a greater extent than of the older girls attempt surfing, similar you?

Because their hubby don’t similar surfing. They say, “Bengali girls are non supposed to live surfing. You are my wife. You are non going surfing. It’s non good.” That's why. Also my hubby told me before, “Hey Nasima. It’s non proficient that you lot acquire surfing. People are talking bad things.” I tell him, “I similar surfing. I desire to acquire together with surf. I said, “I am non listening to people.”

My hubby is similar this. He’s thus crazy. He doesn’t similar surfing. He doesn’t similar that I acquire exterior together with live amongst my friends. He don’t similar this. That’s why possibly I desire to divorce my husband.

Nasima receives a disapproving look. Photo past times Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan Dozzi.

Why doesn’t that halt you lot from surfing?

My hubby says, “I’m married to you. You remain at abode together with don’t acquire whatever place. Don’t non acquire run across whatever of your family. Don’t acquire run across whatever of your friends.” I don’t know why. At the fourth dimension he was my boyfriend, he tells me, “Oh you lot acquire surfing? No problem. You acquire run across your friends, no problem.” But after married, he changed his mind. I don't similar this. I desire to brand happy for my life.

Nasima dancing amongst friends. Photo past times Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan Dozzi. 

What are your dreams for the future?

I desire to participate inwards unlike competitions together with I desire to prepare immature girls who are interested inwards surfing. I desire to brand them similar me. Before I started surfing, I was working on the beach to sell the things together with other ornaments made out of shells, which comes from the sea. But when I reckon some people surfing, I mean value it volition actually experience proficient together with why don’t I attempt together with live a surfer similar them.

Within inwards a brusk time, I experience similar I volition compete amongst the boys. Within a brusk time, I volition live at their level. I am really hopeful of this. It’s my dream to live a proficient surfer. Thank you lot for you lot Seea for sponsoring me. I’m thus happy.

Thank you lot Nasima for existence an inspiration! We are thus happy to live a purpose of your surfing dreams inwards Bangladesh! 

Nasima at sunset. Photo past times Kamrul Hasan. 

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