From where I stand: “It doesn't matter if we're boys or girls; when we're on the field wearing our jerseys, we're all playing for the same team-we play for the country”


Interviewed by: Shararat Islam, UN Women Bangladesh

Photo: Roton Gomej
Shathira Jakir Jessy, First international female (Bangladeshi) umpire and a former cricketer. Photo: Roton Gomej

I have always wanted to be a cricketer. Back in those days in Lalmonirhut, a district in northern Bangladesh, dreaming of becoming a cricketer seemed like reaching for the stars, especially for a girl when there was not even a women’s team. But that didn't stop me.

My father, a banker, and my mother, a head teacher, encouraged me in every way they could. It was my mother who first told me about the Bangladesh Krira Shikkha Protishtan (BKSP), the national sports educational institute in Dhaka. Although BKSP didn't offer women's cricket at the time, they got me admitted for shooting.

But cricket remained my passion. When women's cricket finally began in Dhaka in 2007, I seized the opportunity. I joined the national team after finishing my HSC exams, despite the skepticism and questions from relatives and neighbors. They couldn't understand how cricket could be a profession for a girl. My younger cousins were getting married, when I was playing cricket. Yet, my parents stood by me, even though doubts crept in at times.

The journey was far from easy. There were hardly any matches for the women's team, and we often sat idle for months. We had to practice with the boys. Some academies even refused to allow us to practice. One of the toughest moments came in 2012 when I was dropped from the team because I got married. Despite being in top form, our coach considered marriage a disqualifying factor. It was a blow that sent me into depression.

But I refused to give up. Cricket was all I ever wanted, so I fought back harder than ever. I started to train harder, pushing myself beyond limits, shedding weight and proving my worth on the field. In 2013, I returned to the game, smashing records and reclaiming my spot as the Queen of the pitch. Challenges persisted, even after becoming a mother. I played through my first trimester and returned three months after my daughter was born. It wasn't easy, but my love for the game fueled my determination.

Shathira Jakir Jessy

I explored every avenue in cricket, from hosting TV shows to commentating at national and international matches, never straying from my passion. In 2009, I even passed the Umpiring test but found no opportunities.

In 2022, witnessing women umpires from Pakistan, UAE, and Malaysia in the Asia Cup ignited a fire within me. I took up umpiring, starting with divisional matches with men’s teams. I even went to India to umpire in the T20s. Eventually, when I umpired at a national-level premier league with the men’s team, the backlash started. I stood my ground, because like me there are now three more female umpires in the row, paving the way for other aspiring girls.

Cricket is my one true love. It keeps me alive with its joy and the excitement on the field. I firmly believe that everyone, regardless of gender, should engage in sports. Sports not only nourish us physically but also mentally, teaching valuable lessons about teamwork, empathy, resilience, and the importance of never giving up.

One aspect I appreciate about umpiring is that the match fees are equal, thanks to the Bangladesh Cricket Board. It shows that, regardless of gender, we're all valued equally on the field. It's something we could also do for cricket teams. It doesn't matter if we're boys or girls; when we're on the field wearing our jerseys, we're all playing for the same team, the country. But, even though we play equally, we still don't get paid the same or treated with the same respect. I understand ensuring the same wage is a longer process, but my message to the sports industry is clear: treat everyone with equal respect, regardless of gender.