Photographer Allison Joyce has spent the past two and a half years following a group of girls in Bangladesh who are learning how to surf. The girls, who usually work on the beach selling water, snacks, and homemade jewelry to support their families, have been learning from a local surfer, Rashed Alam, who started teaching surfing as a way to give back to children. Alam and his wife say they believe surfing will empower the girls and give them an outlet to become who they are — kids.
When Joyce visited the surf club in Cox's Bazar, a major fishing port and one of the top tourist destinations in Bangladesh, in April, some of the older guys were harassing the girls, saying it is inappropriate for girls to surf, she said. Many parents also objected to their daughters spending time at the beach, and some said young men came to their houses to complain that their daughters were behaving improperly.
But Alam continued to talk to the parents to convince them their daughters would have a better future if they were allowed to pursue their hobbies. Today, with private donations, Alam has been able to continue mentoring the girls, and has expanded the program to teach new girls. They surf and practice their lifeguard training regularly. Last year Joyce helped set up a crowd-funding project to support the girls' families — and as a result, the girls have recently started school, most of them for the first time in their lives.