Pakistan's first all-female boxing club
A group of Pakistani girls are stepping out of patriarchal confines and into the boxing ring
It's not easy being a woman in Pakistan. In the often rigidly patriarchal society, women and girls can be forced into strict, subordinate roles that can prevent them from going to school, deciding if they want to marry, or worse. But, recently, a small and growing group of Pakistani girls are stepping out of their traditional roles and into the boxing ring.
Coach Younus Qambrani (bottom right) and his students pose with their boxing gloves outside the Pak Shaheen Boxing Club in Karachi, Pakistan, on Feb. 20, 2016. | (REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro)
Since 1992, Younus Qambrani has been training aspiring male boxers at his Pak Shaheen Boxing Club, a nondescript, one-room building in a rough neighborhood in Karachi, Pakistan. But now, this bare-bones facility is unceremoniously breaking glass ceilings with the first all-female boxing class.
Qambrani coaches Arisha, 9, during practice on Feb. 19, 2016. | (REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro)
The all-girls boxing club started by accident about six months ago when one of Qambrani's boxers introduced the coach to a 16-year-old girl who was being turned away from local boxing clubs who didn't want to teach a girl. Qambrani has two teenaged daughters whom he has trained since they were kids, so he invited the new recruit to join in on the familial training sessions. A few days later, another girl came asking for lessons and before the coach knew it he had 13 girls throwing punches in his home.
Now, the girls, aged 8 to 17, go to the Pak Shaheen Boxing Club after school to work on their jabs, hooks, uppercuts, and confidence. "We want to strengthen both the mind and body," said Hussain Qambrani, the coach's brother and the club president.
Interest is already spreading. A sister program for female boxers has opened in another Karachi neighborhood so the girls will have a team to compete against. And this past February, three Pakistani women made history by becoming the country's first female boxers to participate in the South Asian Games (two won bronze medals in their events), giving these aspiring boxers some long-awaited role models and pretty big gloves to fill. Below, a look at these tough young athletes in action.
Mehek, 15, trains on Feb. 19, 2016. | (REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro)
A friend wraps the hand of a boxer competing in the Sindh Junior Sports Association Boxing Tournament in Karachi, Pakistan, on Feb. 21, 2016. | (REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro)
Mehek, 15, practices during a workout on Feb. 19, 2016. | (REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro)
Arisha, 9, punches Misbah during practice on Feb. 20, 2016. | (REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro)
Assistant boxing coach Nadir helps Urooj, 15, put on her headgear before the start of her bout during the Sindh Junior Sports Association Boxing Tournament on Feb. 21, 2016. | (REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro)
Aamna, 11, waits for the start for her bout during the Sindh Junior Sports Association Boxing Tournament on Feb. 21, 2016. | (REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro)
Tabia, 12, fights against Aamna, 11, during the Sindh Junior Sports Association Boxing Tournament on Feb. 21, 2016. | (REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro)
The trainees at the Pak Shaheen Boxing Club with the club president Hussain Qambrani, coach Younus Qambrani, and assistant coach Nadir in Karachi, Pakistan, on Feb. 20, 2016. | (REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro)