Seven months ago, a series of chance events made Lyari—a dusty, poor, and gang-ridden neighborhood in Karachi, Pakistan—home to the country's first boxing club for girls. Khadijah, 16, had grown tired of learning how to punch and jab through videos of old matches. But, unable to find a single sports club in her town that would take girls, she approached Nadir Kachi, a local boxing champion, and asked him to train her. He declined, introducing her instead to his coach, Younis Qambrani, who had already been teaching his two daughters the sport. When he took on Khadijah, word spread quickly, and within a few months, a dozen others girls between eight and 17 had asked him to train them too.
The difficulty with teaching girls, though, was making sure they stayed safe from the traditionalists within Pakistani society. Some merely disapprove of women playing sports, but others respond with violence. Just a month after the boxing club opened, a religious student group at a Karachi university campus assaulted female students for playing cricket. Qambrani hoped that keeping the girls' training strictly indoors and allowing them to practice in head scarves, if they wished, would protect them. So far, the only attacks that that these girls have experienced have taken place in the boxing ring.