Tasmina Aktar: The Girl who dreams to become a horse racer
A little girl riding on a speeding horse and flying her hair in the air is moving towards the victory line leaving all her male contenders behind. This scene is a part of a documentary made on the basis of a life of a young girl named Tasmina Aktar, a horse racer who lives in the northern part of the country. Because of her achievement in horse racing, she has become well-known as a horse girl not only in her village but also all over Bangladesh.
Tasmina Aktar came at the center of attention when a report titled “?? ??????? ???????????? ???? (The story of an afflict horse racer)” was published on 17 June 2015 in Odhuna section of Prothom Alo. This report outlined the struggles of her life as well as hurdles in her path to prolong the dream of becoming a successful horse racing jockey. The most important lesson that other people can learn from her story is that one needs to become obstinate to meet his or her hobby.
Tasmina is as ordinary as other village girls, but her passion for horse riding and racing has made her separate from others. In a country like Bangladesh where 60 percent of the girls become the victim of child marriage, Tasmina aims to ride horse and join horse races at least for another five years. It is unquestionably a big challenge for her, because in rural society, grown up girls are not allowed to participate in outdoor games and horse race is beyond imagination. Despite many obstacles, Tasmina’s parents appeared as a ray of hope because they think that their daughter can play the game for two more years.
Tasmina Aktar is an 11-year-old girl who was born and brought up at Chaksubal village under Dhamoirhat upazila of Naogaon district. She is the daughter of Obaidur Rahman (father) and Tohura Aktar (mother). She wants to become a horse jockey. But the problem is that she does not have any horse to participate in competitions. That is why, being stimulated by her desire, she along with her father, visited places where horse racing takes place. She participated in the competition using other people’s horses and won. The prizes she won were taken away by the horse owners. Some generous horse owners used to give them a little amount as transportation cost. Her poverty stricken father did not have the ability to buy her a horse. So wherever he heard of horse racing event taking place, he took her daughter.
Every sad story has happy ending. It looks like that Tasmina’s sad part of life is going to an end. The report caught the attention of a businessman, Ulfat Kader, who dwells in Bailey Road area of Dhaka city. He has a horse farm in Gazipur where he handed over the horse. He gave Tasmina a horse on 20 November 2015. At the time of giving horse, ObaidurRahman and local journalist of Dhamoirhat were also present. Ulfat Kader promised to help Obaidur’sdaughter. He also provided Tk 7500 as transportation cost to take the horse from Dhaka. As the horse did not have any training, she could not ride on it in the farm. Just a day after brining the horse home, she tamed it and started training it for race.
Tasmina’s good fortune did not last long. The horse she got as a gift was one eyed. So, racing with this horse was near impossible. Even she met with an accident while racing with this horse. Regardless of this bitter experience, she did not lose hope. Still she has to depend on other people’s horse to play the game. If any horse owner allows her to ride his horse, she can join the competition. She is well aware of the fact that if she wins the race then prizes will go to the owner. But Tasmina knows that it is meaningless to get upset and give up her dream. Her only desire is to ride horses and become victorious in horse race. She does not bother about medals and prizes. What she cares about is the joy of victory.
In a male dominated society, we cannot think of a girl competing with her elder male competitors in a horse race. The most unexpected thing is perhaps seeing the girl defeating all male contestants and becoming champion. It is really difficult for a girl to get recognition in a patriarchal society. Tasmina feels sad when she hears the name of the horse owner being announced as a competitor instead of her. The demand that her name will be declared as a participator is a clear sign of her ignorance towards the norms of male dominated society.
Her level of confidence and determination to achieve goals has made her source of inspiration for many young girls. Right now, her only dream is to have a big horse of her own. But big horse is very expensive which her poverty stricken father cannot buy for her. The question still remains- “Who will fulfill her dreams?” She also wants to join Bangladesh police after completing her education, but everything depends on her parents’ economic solvency as well as their willingness to provide their daughter facilities regarding education.
By expressing her wish to be a successful horse racing jockey, Tasmina takes an attempt to break the traditional feminine roles determined by socio-cultural setting. Her contribution to women empowerment is noteworthy. She has set herself as an example of gender equity. She has proved that women are capable of doing anything that men can do. So there is no way to take them and their achievements lightly. It looks like that girls’ like Tasmina will fulfill the dream of Begum Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain, the pioneer of feminism in Bengal. They will make a beautiful Bangladesh where male and female will be measured equally. The word “gender discrimination”will be removed forever from society, economy, culture and education.
Two documentaries about Tasmina Aktar have been made so far. These documentaries are- “Tasmina The Horse Girl” and “????????”. Faridur Rahman directed and Mahbuba Begum Hena produced “Tasmina The Horse Girl” documentary earned recognitions and was also much-admired in several film festivals. It made its way to the 19th Olympia Film Festival for Children and Young people that took place in Pygros, Greece. In 2016, it was also selected for the Gender Equity Prize at the Prix Jeunesse International film festival at Munich, Germany.
Another documentary titled “????????” was directed by Tanha Zafreen under the supervision of Anisul Hoque, a well-known writer. Voice was given by a popular actor and politician, Asaduzzaman Noor. A 6 minute 44 second long video is given below. In this video, people can see her struggles to fulfill her dream.
Below is given another video where viewers can see Tasmina competing in traditional horse race in Naogaon and becoming champion running past all her male opponents.