Men for women: The story of Bangladesh's first female Olympian

At the police academy, her father won the 'Silver' medal in the run for the 'Best Cadet' award. He was good at shooting and he believed carrying his gene his daughter might excel in this discipline, too. So at the age of 16, Kazi Shahana Parveen got enrolled into Narayanganj Shooting Club. She sprung a surprise by beating long-time champion Nurzahan Khan Chowdhury soon, and the country got someone who would go on to create a history.

Parveen became the first Bangladeshi woman* to represent the country at the Olympics when she took part in the '10 Metre Air Rifle' event in the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. She was also the first woman to win a Gold in the South Asian Games thanks to her heroics in the 1991 edition in Colombo. She claimed another Gold in Kathmandu SAF Games in 1999, this time alongside Sabrina Sultana in the '50 Metre Prone Rifle' event. 

But why did she choose to join shooting? "It is all because of my father, Kazi Sirazul Huq," said an emotional Parveen, as tears rolled down her cheeks. 

"Being in a small town like Narayanganj, it was not easy to become a shooter. Even my uncles were against it. There were days they told me they were coming to our house and talk sense into my father so that my life as a shooter comes to an end. 

"But he never bothered. He used to say, 'Let them come. You do not worry. Just keep going. I know you will do great'. And I kept going," she added.

Sirazul died in 1984, long before Parveen won a Gold in the South Asian Games or participated in the Olympics. 

Two years later, the shooter married Giasuddin Chowdhury, an income tax lawyer. 

When asked if he was supportive of her shooting career, she said, "He was concerned at the beginning. But I told him that I would leave the camp anytime I sense a problem. He had always been very supportive."

Parveen regrets that she could not give more back to the country's shooting arena, especially in a coaching role. A few months back, she had a stroke. But some of the disparities she or her colleagues had experienced are still vivid in her memory. 

"When we won Gold in 1999, the government gave us Tk 100,000 each. The Gold winning men's football team players, however, pocketed Tk 300,000 each," lamented the legendary shooter. 

But she still hopes changes will come and the new generation will be benefitted."They get better rifles now, and better facilities," she observed.

In a country where women are mostly opressed by men, both in and outside the family, Parveen's father and husband had been the odd one out. We hope our future Parveens get such support from the men around them, and soon we win a Gold at the Olympics.

* Some say Parveen is the first Bangladeshi to participate in an Olympics, not only the first Bangladeshi woman. We have intentionally avoided that debate here.