Deshi Ballers

Deshi Ballers

Bangladesh is unable to enforce the right of girls and women to participate in physical education, physical activity, and sport at all levels. Fitness and sports for women in the country is not valued as much as it should be, but even with limited resources, opportunities and encouragement, our women’s sports teams are obvious examples of how it can promote women’s empowerment and gender equality. Hence, it is important to promote women in sports for the following reasons:

  1. Women who are active in sports and recreational activities as girls feel greater confidence, self-esteem, and pride in their physical and social selves.
  2. Women develop transferable skills through sports such as leadership skills, teamwork, setting goals which are applicable beyond sport.
  3. Girls who participate in sports are less likely to get involved with drugs and more likely to graduate from high school.
  4. One to three hours of exercise a week over a woman’s reproductive lifetime bring a 20-30% reduction in the risk of breast cancer.

Founded by Bangladesh national basketball team players Ashreen Mridha and Gulnahar Mahbub Monika in 2018, Deshi Ballers is the first ever female-led sports development organization for women in Bangladesh. Through training camps, tournaments, leagues, outreach programs and mentoring of future female sports leaders in the form of coaches, referees, and national role models for the next generation, Deshi Ballers aim to empower and inspire females in Bangladesh to play sports (particularly basketball) and take the skills learned through sports to become leaders in other spheres of life.

Deshi Ballers programs include:

  • Youth Basketball Camps for young girls aged 12-18 years, targeting areas where basketball opportunities are limited. The camps are designed to teach basketball fundamentals and off-court life skills such as teamwork, respect, and discipline. Deshi Ballers did their first basketball camp in 2020 with 30 under-privileged girls from Jaago Foundation School, in collaboration with the American International School Dhaka where the camp was hosted.
  • Leaders on Court Basketball Training program for women and girls aged 18+ who have intermediate or professional level basketball experience. This monthly training program (which started in 2019) focuses on improving player weaknesses, honing strengths, and conditioning athletes to perform at their peak throughout the year. Players represent Deshi Ballers in local tournaments and become future leaders who can teach other girls at camps. Currently, the training program is limited to Dhaka and will be expanded to other divisions. 4 players from Deshi Ballers played the 9th Bangabandhu Bangladesh Games held in April 2021 representing Chittagong Division and earned the gold medal in women’s basketball.
  • Fitness Programs for females to raise awareness on the importance of health and wellbeing. During the pandemic from 2020 onwards, Deshi Ballers organized a virtual fitness program to stay fit at home. The classes were conducted by American fitness coach Anne Sherman and were provided free for Bangladeshi girls.
  • Annual Basketball Tournaments, for female players to flaunt their basketball skills, get to know one another, have fun, and become a part of the greater community. Deshi Ballers organizes its flagship International Women’s Day tournament every year in March. Till now, 3 successful tournaments have been organized with 16 women’s teams from around Bangladesh. In 2021, boys were included in the tournament for the first time to promote gender equality in sports.
  • Outreach programs, where Deshi Ballers visit schools and colleges outside Dhaka, organizing various short camps and exhibition games, to showcase women’s basketball in an attempt to decentralize the sport from metro cities. In 2019, Deshi Ballers went to Mymensingh Cadet College to prepare the girls team for a tournament.
  • Activism for women’s sports: Deshi Ballers regularly participate in dialogues to promote women’s sports and uses its social media platforms to begin conversations about myths and misconceptions about female athletes. Currently, Deshi Ballers have 5000 active followers on social media. In 2020, Deshi Ballers also participated in a street protest to raise awareness about harassment and abuse that female athletes face.
  • Deshi Ballers also create opportunities for young female athletes to participate in U.S Statement Department exchange programs. 5 female players have participated in the Youth Sports and Women’s Empowerment program in 2020, and 4 female players have participated in Championship Principles program in 2021, both sponsored by the U.S State Department.

Deshi Ballers have received significant recognition for their work so far. Both Gulnahar Mahbub Monika and Ashreen Mridha were selected for One Young World Summit (2019 and 2021). Deshi Ballers won Equality Award 2020 and launched campaign with Plan International Bangladesh. Deshi Ballers won the Joy Bangla Youth Award 2020 and the Diana Award 2021.

In the future, Deshi Ballers hope to inaugurate the first women’s basketball league and create the first pool of female basketball coaches and referees in Bangladesh.