‘Discrimination, pay disparity frustrate women athletes’

DM Simanto

31 July, 2020 12:00 AM printer

‘Discrimination, pay disparity frustrate women athletes’

Former table tennis champion and national sports awardee Zobera Rahman Linu said unequal pay and discrimination are making women athletes of the nation frustrated.

“The situation hasn’t changed as expected. We are still witnessing unequal pay and gender discrimination here. Nowadays, most of the girls come from needy families. They need financial security but these issues would make our women athletes frustrated. I’m really worried about it,” she told to this reporter over the phone on Thursday.  

“If we look into major sports such as cricket and football, we can clearly witness the stark difference. A female cricketer or footballer gets nearly nothing in comparison to her male counterpart. Small prize money and participation money have become a tradition here. The same is happening to table tennis. Women paddlers are facing the same crisis. Gender discrimination existed during my time as a player but I was hoping for a better future. I was expecting that women will get more priority but nothing happened,” the former table tennis star said expressing her regret.

Last year, Bangladesh sports fraternity hosted only two international competitions for women -- Bangamata Under-19 Women's International Gold Cup arranged by Bangladesh Football Federation in April and AVC Asian Central Zone Senior Women's Volleyball Championship organised by Bangladesh Volleyball Federation (BVF) in November. It was the first international event for Bangladesh women’s volleyball team.

Apart from these, Bangladesh Hockey Federation (BHF) sent its women’s team to take part in their maiden six-nation Women’s Juniors’ (Under-21) AHF Cup Hockey Qualifiers held in Singapore in September.

“Another issue is that most of the federations or organisers are reluctant to host events for women. As a result, we can see that a gap has emerged between women athletes and sports organisers. It’s not good for the country’s sporting industry. You can’t move forward without the participation of women,” Linu further said. 

Bangladesh Olympic Association (BOA) formed a six-member Bangladesh Athlete Commission for four years on April 2019, few months before of 13th South Asian (SA) Games 2019 in Nepal. The commission, chaired by Zobera Rahman Linu, has been working to support the country’s athletes especially women athletes.  

The commission came into the spotlight when they supported some athletes protecting their rights during their camp for SA Games. The members of commission visited training camps, talked with athletes and solved their issue regarding accommodations.

“All the athletes or federations under IOC and BOA come under our jurisdiction. Our main purpose is to support athletes assuring their safety and security especially female athletes who suffer injustice, harassment and abuse by figures in the authority. We note their complaints and submit reports suggesting recommendations to BOA. We found out several cases of misconduct while visiting the camps for SA Games. These are really disappointing,” she said.

The Commission, which has been funded by IOC Athletes' Commission (AC), mainly played a role of a consultative body tying the knot between country’s athletes and National Olympic Committee (NOC). The other five members are former national footballer M Abdul Gaffar, Golfer Siddikur Rahman, national athlete Shirin Akhter and national shooter M Shakil Ahmed.

When asked about their plan regarding the Athletes Commission, the 55-year-old former table tennis star said, “We want to sit with every athlete, every federation. We have planned to call some athletes from each federation after the pandemic. They can share their problems regarding payment, accommodation and other issues with us. We’ll try to sort these out. We’ll raise our voice for them, protest against injustice and protect their rights.”