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The resilience of the poor and underprivileged is inspiring. For most of the poor girls, getting educated and earning a livelihood is a far-fetched dream. Though a mix of circumstances play their part in shaping a girl’s future, there is no dearth to the hard work put in by girls in the Khidderpore neighbourhood of Kolkata.
Khidderpore, is a poor Muslim neighborhood near the Hooghly river. This is where Ms. Fathima, a teenager hails from, and practices boxing at the Khidderpore boxing club.
Ms. Fatma’s father works as a crane operator in the port area, but his health is failing and there isn’t much work these days anyway. Her mother tutors sometimes to earn a little extra pocket money. After boxing workouts that last from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. every day but Sunday, Ms. Fatma heads home where she freshens up, finishes leftover school work and then helps her sisters cook dinner — a few pieces of beef in a curry and some bread — at their family home, a tiny place that houses her parents, a brother and three sisters. After dinner she sleeps with her sisters on the floor; her parents and brother share an old wooden bed.
Boxing is one of the sports that gives these poor girls an avenue to achieve fame and succeed.
Boxing is one of several avenues that have opened up to poor Muslim women across a modernizing India, including careers with nonprofit organizations and in teaching. It reflects the changing role of women within their own communities, particularly in the past decade, says Sabiha Hussain, an associate professor who studies women’s issues at Jamia Millia Islamia university in New Delhi.
In sports, “they are captured by the media. If they are in a simple thing — small business — they are not visible. It’s a question about visibility. Everybody knows Sania Mirza,” the world-class Indian tennis player who is Muslim, Ms. Hussain adds.
At times, these girls are supported by their parents who encourage them to play the sport and attend practice sessions. Society tends to look down on them and some individuals communicated their disapproval to the girl’s father.
But Ms. Fatma says, “My father would tell them, ‘I have allowed them to box because there is a life in boxing and I want them to become somebody.
While some like Ms. Fathima are lucky to have support from parents, others have to overcome several obstacles.
The head coach of the Khidderpore boxing club, Sheikh Mehrajuddin Ahmed, 42, introduced the boxing program for women at Khidderpore in 1998. He has seen them overcome stigma and break traditional stereotypes.
Girls from the Khidderpore boxing club have gone on to compete in national and international championships, and brought home medals too.
Here is wishing the next breed of boxers from the Khidderpore club the very best in sports and in life.
Read more here.