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Asma Elbadawi

Youth volunteer overturned the ban on hijabs in basketball

Asma Elbadawi, youth campaigner Andrew Aitchison

Asma on placement in Tanzania

Asma Elbadawi can truly say she’s made a change in the world. Just 27, she successfully lobbied the international basketball association FIBA to remove a ban on hijabs and religious headwear in the professional sport. Armed with an outstanding 130,000 signatures, she proved that one person can make a difference.

  • PLACEMENT LOCATION: Watara and Lindi, Tanzania
  • PLACEMENT DATE: December 2015 - March 2016

Growing up, Asma had no role models on TV to aspire to. She never believed that she would be able to be a professional basketball player. As a British girl from a Sudanese family in Bradford, she used her personal experience of a lack of diversity in sport as inspiration.

It was during her placement with VSO ICS in Tanzania that Asma built up the campaigning skills and confidence to take on the project this year.

In the southern Lindi region, Asma worked with secondary schools to discuss life skills and gender issues facing pupils by running a series of discussion groups.

She took the initiative to start basketball for both boys and girls, and used that as a platform to introduce ideas around gender equality and teamwork.

She says, “As a woman coaching the boys, I was the talk of the town. But they were fine with it. They listened to me. No-one disrespected me. Plus, they’d seen me play!”

Not one to rest on her laurels, Asma is now advocating sport for young British Muslim girls. An accomplished spoken word poet, she has also won BBC Radio 1Xtra’s ‘Words First’ 2015 Competition.

A poet, a volunteer and a campaigner for change, Asma has made history already. We’re excited to see what she can accomplish next.

Also shortlisted for Impact Beyond Volunteering Award 2017: