Growing up in a country that allows girls to participate in any sport that they want to, I am sometimes surprised when I find out how other countries have limitations around sports participation. I am so glad to see evidence that the wheels are turning, even if it is slow at the moment, the momentum is building.
The quote at the end of the article is very telling – “The women of our families leave their homes when they get married only to go to someone else’s home and work there, scrubbing floors and keeping the house clean,” he said. “Is this what we are raising girls for? So they can go to someone’s house and become a maasi (maid)? Why not let the girls come here and train and make something of themselves?”
This is a great article about Pakistan’s first all-girl boxing club. It all started when a 16 year old girl, Khadijah approached the 2013 Sindh boxing champion asking if he would train her. He took her to his coach Younis Qambrani.
Younis Qambrani. said,“I have been training my daughters to box since they could put on a pair of gloves.” His family includes several gold medalists in the sport. Qambrani started including Khadijah in those training sessions. A few days later, another girl showed up asking for training, having heard of Khadijah’s sessions. Word spread and before he knew it, Qambrani had 13 girls in his home, all wanting to become boxers. At that point, the coach knew he had to find a space and an official program for them.
SBA secretary Asghar Baloch, explained that any attempts to bring female players into sports like hockey, cricket, tennis or football have been met with fierce resistance. And so, well before the SBA had to figure out how to fund the camp, Baloch and his colleagues had to make sure the girls would be safeguarded against any criticism from those who believe they have no place in a sports arena.
“Our goal is very simple,” Asghar Baloch explained. “Pakistani male athletes have made our country proud on so many platforms, such as the Olympics, the Commonwealth and Asian Games, and we want our girls to be able to fly our nation’s flag just as high all over the world.”
In order to excel at boxing, the girls must be taught one crucial element of the sport: confidence. “If you had come here just a week ago, the girls would have been too shy to speak to you,” Hussain Qambrani said. “If we ever had visitors, they used to hide behind each other. Now, if they see someone from the media or a visitor to the camp, they come forward to speak to him or her.” If this is what can be achieved in just a week, he feels, imagine how far these girls could go with consistent training. “We want to strengthen both the mind and body,” Hussain Qambrani explained. “If you do not train both, it won’t matter how strong the girl’s body is — she’ll be knocked out in the first punch.”
“Some of my own relatives have even said we are mad for wanting to do this,” said Anam. “We all want to go on to international levels and fight, but I realized that if we keep listening to what people have to say about us, we’ll never make it.” She hopes that once people see the girls fighting, they’ll be encouraged to send their own children into the ring. “I am also someone’s daughter,” she said quietly.
Nadir makes videos of the training session on his phone and shows them to his female relatives. He has brought two cousins to one session, but they’re still too shy to join in and, instead, observe from the sidelines. “The women of our families leave their homes when they get married only to go to someone else’s home and work there, scrubbing floors and keeping the house clean,” he said. “Is this what we are raising girls for? So they can go to someone’s house and become a maasi (maid)? Why not let the girls come here and train and make something of themselves?”