Fourteen-year-old Fareeha Tafim grew up with a lot of dreams. However, for the girl born in a conservative Muslim household, having dreams meant building castles in the air. But Fareeha's story deserves to be written as it is about defying all norms with sheer determination and going at patriarchy with a Wushu sword.
Fareeha is from Hyderabad and studies in a Muslim faith-based school. Fortunately, her school is progressive and wants its students to be independent. Wushu, a form of martial arts that originated in China in the 1940s, was brought to the school to teach self-defense to the girls to protect themselves from the gender-based violence that is constantly on the rise.
After learning it for three years, Fareeha got very good at it and there was hardly anyone in the state who could beat her. She eventually went on to become the state champion in 2016.
Despite covering herself with a veil every time she does Wushu, for Fareeha Wushu-ing is the ultimate form of liberation. After winning the state championship, Fareeha and her friend Summaiya got selected for the seventh National Martial Arts Championship.
It was one thing to learn Wushu as self-defense and fight girls in the school, but neither her family nor her community approved of her travelling all the way to Assam for the national championship. Her mother believed that by doing this Fareeha would bring dishonour to the family. Following are her words:
If you show your face you will be called shameless, because you will be performing in front of thousands of people.
Though the entire family was against her, it was her father who supported her vehemently. He was an illiterate who grew up living on the streets; hence, he wanted his child to have a chance at anything that could make her independent irrespective of her gender. With him by her side, the rest of the family had to eventually give in, albeit halfheartedly.
Fareeha was travelling thousands of miles for the first time and it was her first trip without her parents. Added to that was the fear of a new place for she was still a child. But she realised it was now or never and fought the finals with all that she had and came home as the winner of the national championship.
Her story doesn’t just end there. Against all odds, she wants to become a police officer so that she can protect young girls like her.
Jayisha Patel, a London based filmmaker made a documentary on Fareeha’s struggles titled India’s Wushu Warrior Girl for Al Jazeera.
In an interview with Huffington Post regarding what motivated her to take Fareeha’s story, Jayisha said,
It is an important issue. What struck me was that for her age, she was very forward thinking. Also the conservative community she lives in and to have that sort of for thinking and the determination is absolutely amazing.
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