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Knockout Girls

Karachi’s first female boxing club challenging gender stereotypes

In Pakistan’s traditionally patriarchal society, women are expected to keep house and take care of the family. Many are engaged at a very early age and never even see their husbands until the wedding, after which they leave their parents and go to live with their new husbands. Until then, every day is devoted to preparing for married life: they learn to cook, do housework and raise children. Many are discouraged from going to school or taking part in sports, some are even forbidden to do so. Society frowns upon educated girls and sport is considered unbecoming of a young lady.

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The first girls’ boxing club in Karachi has begun to challenge these stereotypes. Kids and adults train together with enthusiasm and dedication, often surpassing their male counterparts. The club is in one of the city’s most dangerous neighbourhoods, notorious for raging gang wars; many girls are keen to learn so that they will be able to protect themselves and their families. The training also gives them a sense of freedom that they can rarely enjoy in other areas of life. Attending the club boosts confidence and broadens horizons.

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Founder, Younus Qambrani, dreams that someday, one of his students will win Olympic gold but his enthusiasm for the club is not shared by everyone. Younus and his club have been threatened and girls have had to leave because of pressure from disapproving relatives. Even so, Younus and his young punchers continue to do what they believe is right, hoping that the day will come when their sporting achievements will make their country proud.

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