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.
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.
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.
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.
"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.
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.