Youth Unstoppable Kabita is helping to change perceptions of women and sport in her home village in Bangladesh, thanks to her involvement with rugby.
Growing up in the Nilphamari Disctrict of Bangladesh, sport was not considered a suitable pastime for young women and girls, who were actively discouraged from taking part.
But, thankfully for Kabita, her family was “different”. Her parents encouraged their daughter to be active and that grounding in sport proved beneficial when she was called up to the first ever Bangladesh women’s sevens national team.
Rugby has since enabled Kabita to travel, including by plane for the first time, and has become a central part of her life.
She is now keen to use her story to convince more young women and girls – and their families – of the benefits of sport, and particularly the oval-ball game.
“I have a big hope in rugby! I want to spread this game through my village, to the city and I want to be a good player, so that I can do the best for the country,” Kabita told World Rugby.
“My future planning is to participate as a role model of rugby inside and outside of my country.”
The seeds of Kabita’s new life as a Youth Unstoppable began when she was a child, growing up in Ungar Village.
Unlike many of their peers, her parents were happy for their daughter to play sport and empowered her to try many different ones, including athletics, cricket and football.
Kabita’s family celebrated her successes at school sports days and didn’t stand in her way when she needed to cycle 10-15km to attend practice.
Riding such distances was “difficult and unsafe” according to Kabita, but it enabled her to develop the athleticism that would come in handy when she started playing rugby in 2019.
“It was tough for Bangladeshi women to [play] sport and that's why I feel that I'm unstoppable,” she said.
The support of her parents was integral to giving her the confidence to follow her sporting ambitions.
“When I received prizes by getting top in school sports events, my parents felt proud and became so happy about it,” Kabita said. “They inspired me more to continue.”
The next defining moment in Kabita’s sporting journey came three years ago when she was invited to take part in a trial for the Bangladesh women’s sevens team in Rangpur.
However, Ungar Village, where Kabita still lives, was suffering from severe flooding at the time and it was with a heavy heart that she made the decision to attend the trial.
“I was depressed when I went, because my family was suffering from the flood,” Kabita, whose father is a farmer, said.
Although she found it difficult to leave her village, once in Rangpur, she endeavoured to make the most of her opportunity.
Kabita had been summonsed due to her athletic abilities and was retained when the group was cut to 25 women and eventually selected in the final 12-player squad for the Asia Rugby Women’s Sevens Trophy.
“If Ferdous Sir didn't summon me, I might not have been able to get into this wonderful sport,” she said.
“I feel so amazing to play rugby where I've made so many good and crazy friends! I want to learn more about rugby, so that I can play well.
“Yes, I played cricket, football and athletics from my childhood. But there's a different feeling about rugby which I just can't describe with my words.”
Travelling to Indonesia for the Asia Rugby Women’s Sevens Trophy enabled Kabita to step foot on a plane for the first time, something she describes as “adventurous”.
On the pitch in Indonesia, Bangladesh played four matches and managed to draw against Chinese Taipei – a game in which Kabita scored her first international try.
“I was overwhelmed when I represented my country on the international platform for the very first time,” Kabita said.
“I became so happy when I scored!”
Kabita has since played for several club teams in Bangladesh and has racked up championship medals wherever she has gone.
She currently plays for Bangladesh ANSAR and VDP, but her aspirations for the future extend beyond the pitch.
The Youth Unstoppable wants to “become a better player on the field and a better human off the field” while also spreading the game’s message throughout her country.
“The mentality of people in the village is changing day by day. They're accepting it. I hope in the future it'll be more helpful for girls to join in sports,” Kabita said.
“I’m proud of what I’ve done to change my society’s thinking.
“What I can give to rugby is what matters to me the most! I love to play rugby and want to [help] my country shine in international tournaments.”
Kabita was always grateful for the support her parents gave her as she chased her sporting ambitions growing up in the Nilphamari Disctrict of Bangladesh.
Their neighbours in Ungar Village did not believe women and girls should play sport. “But my family was different, fortunately,” Kabita said.
Her family encouraged her to try out different sports, including athletics, cricket and football, and celebrated her success when she won prizes at school sports days.
Kabita, in turn, was inspired by her parents to do more and would cycle 10-15km just to attend practice, something that she says was both difficult and unsafe.
The athleticism she had developed in her childhood came in handy in 2019 when she was invited to a trial for the Bangladesh women’s national sevens team.
Kabita was eventually selected to be part of the inaugural Bangladesh women’s sevens squad and flew by plane for the first time as the team travelled to Indonesia for the Asia Rugby Women’s Sevens Trophy.
During the tournament she scored a try as Bangladesh secured a draw against Chinese Taipei.
She has since thrown herself into rugby, representing several clubs while trying her hand at 15s as well as sevens, and adding several medals to her growing trophy cabinet.
Kabita currently plays for the Bangladesh ANSAR and VDP women’s team and is eager to learn more about rugby and its values “to become a better player on the field and better human being off the field”.