Dobunaba envisions bright future for women's basketball in Papua New Guinea
PORT MORESBY (Papua New Guinea) - Normalisa Dobunaba grew up surrounded by her basketball family that dates back to her grandparents playing in the Papua New Guinea national basketball championships.
The 21-year old Dobunaba shared that she watched her parents and grandparents compete in basketball tournaments all over Papua New Guinea.
"My family loves basketball, I grew up watching my parents and grandparents play in Papua New Guinea's national championship and several competitions in various provinces," she shared.
"I had four brothers and we all played basketball growing up and watching the game. When we were young, every weekend we spend our time on the courts and play basketball," she added.
Dobunaba represented Papua New Guinea in the 2016 FIBA U18 Oceania Championships in Fiji, the 2017 Mini-Games in Vanuatu, and was lined up in the 2019 Pacific Games held in Samoa.
"The feeling of representing Papua New Guinea is overwhelming, when you put on the jersey and you represent your people. It's not about the name on your back anymore but the one in front. It was a tremendous honor and I felt privileged to be out there to represent my country," she excitedly shared.
Unfortunately for the young Norma, she experienced a painful loss in early 2019 when her mom passed away, but she powered through the difficult time to make her mother proud of her.
"It was hard for me because my Mom has always been my main supporter and she dreamed of me playing in the Pacific Games," Dobunaba said. "I almost did not want to play because it was tough but I went out there and played my heart out because I know that's what she wanted me to do, and I wanted to make her and my family proud of me."
Photo: Normalisa coaching in action during a Basketball For Good program
Aside from her active participation in the competitive side of the game, Dobunaba is also an active and regular volunteer to the Basketball Federation of Papua New Guinea's (BFPNG) Basketball For Good programs.
"I started volunteering in 2016 when Joel Khalu was the CEO of BFPNG, he invited all players to volunteer and help out in the programs and I never looked back after my first experience," she said.
Dobunaba, who also represented Papua New Guinea in the Pacific Youth Leader Basketball Camp in 2016, shared that throughout her stint as a volunteer coach, it has empowered her as a young leader and drove her passion to be a role model to young girls in Papua New Guinea.
"Ever since I started volunteering in our Basketball For Good programs, I always noticed that it was very male-dominant in terms of participants and even coaches. One day, I got home and reflected and questioned why is that the case and I came to the conclusion that the key is to have self-confidence," she shared.
"When I started, I also doubted myself and felt out of place but I've learned to build my confidence. I challenged myself to be outspoken and fit in, I wanted to show other young girls that we can be leaders in our communities," she added.
Photo: Dobunaba (Second from right) represented Papua New Guinea in the 2017 Pacific Youth Leaders Basketball camp
Dobunaba is grateful for the opportunities she's been given and hopes to be able to continue volunteering in the programs as long as she is available.
"We recently came back and doing programs again. Due to the recent lockdown, I am currently volunteering full time for the Federation. I believe in the goal and the impact Basketball For Good programs brings to our communities and hope to be able to do it as long as I can," she shared.
BFPNG's Basketball For Good programs is supported by the Australian Government through the Pacific Sports Partnerships, and FIBA's Foundation, the International Basketball Foundation.
The Papua New Guinea native envisions a bright future for basketball in her country and believes that women will be a key part of their growth.
"I want to continue representing Papua New Guinea for my family and also to be a volunteer coach in BFPNG programs to be a role model for young girls. Basketball has been my life and it will always be, I hope to give back as much as I can and give the same opportunities to the young people in the future," she stated.
"I believe if we can empower young girls to find a place where they are comfortable it will build their confidence and that is one of the key goals of our programs. Hopefully, that will push them to step out of their comfort zones and get involved with their communities as leaders " she added.