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Pakistani Girls Punch Gender Barriers in First Female Boxing Camp

In southern Pakistan, a group of young girls practice their boxing skills after school, punching through the country's gender barriers.

Pakistan's Lyari neighborhood in Karachi is known for its dusty roads and destructive gang presence but for the past six months about a dozen girls aged 8 to 17, have been training at Pak Shaheen Boxing Club, the first ever women's boxing camp.

 

Above: Coach Yonus Qambrani helps Anum Qambrani, his 17-year-old daughter, train by punching padding.

 

 

Ahktar Soomro / Reuters

Younus Qambrani, founded the club in 1992 in the Karachi neighborhood of Lyari. It was just last year that Pakistani women competed in the South Asian Games, before they trained as boxers in small numbers.

 

Above: Arisha, 9, takes instructions from coach Younus Qambrani during an exercise session at the first women's boxing coaching camp in Karachi, on Feb. 19.

Ahktar Soomro / Reuters
Tabia, 12, removes her shoes after finishing an exercise session at the first women's boxing coaching camp in Karachi, on Feb. 19. During the week, the girls, go to the club after school to practice their jabs, hooks and upper cuts for hours in the hope of one day bringing a medal home to Pakistan. Ahktar Soomro / Reuters

Misbah, 17, takes part in warm up exercises in Karachi, Pakistan on Feb. 19. Everyday before practice the girls line up against a cement wall, touch their hands to their faces and do a prayer.

Ahktar Soomro / Reuters
A friend wraps the hand of a boxer competing in the Sindh Junior Sports Association Boxing Tournament in Karachi on Feb. 21. In October, the Sindh Boxing Association organized a camp for female boxers in Karachi, the first time that a government-supported event for women in the sport was held in the country, according to media reports. Ahktar Soomro / Reuters

Some of the girls in Qambrani's family, who had taken up practicing at home, participated in the camp, and came to Qambrani afterwards to ask why they couldn't train at his club as well.

 

Above: Assistant boxing coach Nadir helps Urooj Qambrani, 15, put on her headgear before the start of her bout during the Sindh Junior Sports Association Boxing Tournament in Karachi, on Feb. 21. 

Ahktar Soomro / Reuters

"Last year a girl came to me, asking why girls couldn't train. I was moved when she said, 'No one teaches us how to defend ourselves,'" Qambrani said. Since then, some of the girls have begun to participate in tournaments, at home in the ring in white track suits, head scarves and boxing gloves.

 

Above: Tabia, left, 12, fights against Aamna, 11, during the Sindh Junior Sports Association Boxing Tournament in Karachi, on Feb. 21.

 In Pakistan, a conservative Muslim society, women and girls face additional obstacles - both from Taliban threats for going to school and also violence from family members.

 

 

Above: Students of a madrasa (religious school) gather to a watch girls' bout during the Sindh Junior Sports Association Boxing Tournament in Karachi, on Feb. 21.

 

Ahktar Soomro / Reuters
Aamna, 11, waits for the start for her bout during the Sindh Junior Sports Association Boxing Tournament in Karachi, on Feb. 21. Ahktar Soomro / Reuters
Urooj, 15, spits water between rounds in her bout during the Sindh Junior Sports Association Boxing Tournament in Karachi, on Feb. 21. "I have been training since I was a child," she said. "Inshallah, I will become an international boxer. ... I will make Pakistan's name famous." Ahktar Soomro / Reuters

The girl trainees pose for a group photograph with their coach Yunus Qambrani and assistant coach Nadir at the first women's boxing coaching camp in Karachi, on Feb. 20.

 

The growth of the sport for both men and women in Pakistan has been dogged by a lack of equipment and adequate facilities, but the situation is slowly improving, said Qambrani.

 

 

 

Related: Female Cyclists Push Limits in Afghan Culture

 

Ahktar Soomro / Reuters