Photojournalism: The Bangladesh Surf Girls
The Bangladeshi surf girls are a group of girls who started surfing when they were ten to thirteen years old living and working in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh. Poverty forced them into early adulthood, as they were obligated to shoulder the responsibility of earning money to help feed their families. Early each morning, rain or shine, they would leave their homes and make their way to the beach where they worked selling jewelry and eggs until late into the night before returning home.
Most children who have been conscripted into the role of wage earners have little joy in their lives, but the surf girls have been learning to surf and skateboard thanks to the efforts of a local surf club.
Bangladesh has the second-highest rate of child marriage in the world. As they are getting older, men frequently harass them on the street or on the beach while they work. Their parents have been pushing them to marry or get more “appropriate” work as domestic workers, which can put them in an unsafe environment.
In a conservative Muslim country, it is uncommon to see spirited, confident girls learning to surf and skateboard. They know that there is an alternative to the patriarchal, conservative lifestyle that they see imposed on women around them in their villages and communities. They’re up against so much, but they have dreams. The Surfer Girls all want something good for their lives; safe, stable, and dignified jobs, an education, and the ability to choose to delay marriage until they are adults. Surfing and skating empower them, giving them a chance to dream and an outlet to be children.