Female Boxers in Afghanistan Fight to Go to the Olympics

by Samantha Vincenty

A small but dedicated group of young female boxers in Afghanistan are learning vital self-defense skills and dreaming of Olympic stardom, according to a story from Al-Arabiya News. Training in a space formerly used by the Taliban for public punishments, the athletes still face serious threats from conservatives who believe that females shouldn’t learn how to fight:

“Two years ago someone called my father…and threatened that he would either kidnap or kill us if he let us train,” 19-year-old Shabnam said. They did not return until their trainer offered to organize transportation for the girls and limit workouts to the gym, where the government provides security.

Any aspiring professional female athlete faces certain obstacles, such as under-representation in sports media and the various stereotypes that stem from peoples’ inability to reconcile athleticism and femininity. But to be a female athlete in a country that saw decades of horrific institutionalized violence against women takes a mind-blowing amount of bravery (particularly for the parents, whose memory of the Taliban is much more vivid). When push comes to shove, these girls just really love boxing.

“It was my dream to become a boxer. At first my father did not agree with me. He said girls should not be boxing,” 18-year-old Sadaf, breathless from the punching bag, told Reuters. “After I got my first medal, he changed his mind.”

This short clip of the boxers and their trainer made me want to know even more about them as well as Afghanistan’s efforts to bring female athletes to the Olympics. Will somebody please make a film about Shabnam and Sadaf Rahimi, their trainer, and all the girls of the Ghazi stadium?  Ooh, it could be called Punch It Out! You know…like Stick It…no? Okay, I’ll fine-tune the title if someone makes the movie.

Image credit: Reuters

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