How often do you read or hear about incidents of sexual harassment in our country? The number of cases is on the rise, and it is terrifying. In the hopes to combat these occurences, Mashroof Hossain, a Bangladeshi police officer and Abdullah Mohammad Hossain, a martial arts veteran with three decades of experience, together started the project Warrior Women Bangladesh in September 2017.
“I have been raised by a strong woman. My mother is a fitness instructor by profession. She instilled the idea of strong women in my mind from my early days,” states Mashroof. “The 2015 incident of mass sexual harassment that was perpetrated during Pohela Boishakh celebrations at TSC enraged me. That is when I decided that I should do something about it.”
Since then, Mashroof began sharing different ideas on self-defence, trying to boost confidence in women, through social media platforms. The immense response he received from students, home-makers and service holders, further encouraged him.
When Abdullah approached Mashroof, the Warrior Women Bangladesh project began to take shape. The joint venture is run by Abdullah in his KO Fight Studio in Gulshan, which is registered under the World Karate Organisation Bangladesh. He has also been the country representative of the organisation since 2017. The professional martial artist has three black belts, and will be receiving his fourth this year. The studio offers full contact karate, Shinkyokushin, for students.
“I planned on a short course for women’s self-defence which would cover the basic techniques,” says Abdullah. “When the ‘warriors’ share their stories of fighting back, in the group we have on social media, I cannot explain in words how proud it makes us feel. It makes all the trouble we have faced to reach this stage worthwhile.”
The project inspires women to overcome their fears. During the course, they are encouraged to break free of social stigmas, which often hinder their ability to feel confident and powerful.
“Breaking the mindset was the biggest challenge for us. Patriarchal beliefs are deeply rooted in the very core of our social structure,” explains Mashroof. “By establishing Warrior Women Bangladesh, we have taken a step forward in addressing the pressing issue of sexual harassment in Bangladesh. We are proud to hear reports of our students standing up against domestic abuse after completing their training.”
Mashroof is currently studying at Harvard University. Upon returning to Bangladesh, he plans to extend their project to rural areas where circumstances are often more severe.
“To create mass awareness, we need sponsors. Only social media is not enough, as it will not reach the masses, especially those in the rural areas,” asserts Abdullah. “If educational institutions, garment factory owners, women healthcare organisations, and even NGOs work on this, it will be easier for us to provide the course at a low cost or even free for the underprivileged. This way our goal of empowering women through self-defence will be accomplished.”