Women’s Boxing Teaches Skills for Life
“Train Hard, Live Proud” – No this is not the motto of the U.S. Marines or an elitist organization international. Rather, it’s one of the motivational slogans of “Boxgirls,” a Berlin-based, non-profit program to empower women and young girls in the urban and often male-dominated worlds they live in – all through the sport of boxing.
Founded by Canadian Heather Cameron, a professor at the Free University of Berlin, Boxgirls teaches women not just fisticuffs, but builds levels of physical fitness and confidence that points women in the direction of success, both within the ring and out.
Conditioning is a big part of the program, cites Cameron, who is also the program’s head trainer. Being in good physical shape is an important first step to building healthy self-esteem. The skills needed for boxing have to do with thinking clearly and good decision-making “on one’s feet.” Together, these are valuable assets to have in everyday life, too, Cameron says.
“A number of the school-age girls were doing poorly in their studies when they first came to Boxgirls,” Cameron described. “Some were quiet and shy. It was their teachers who tipped us off to changes taking place in the classroom. Transformations that coincided with what we were seeing in the gym,” she said.
Berlin’s Boxgirls membership currently boasts 101 girls and women. Ranging in age from 10 to 54 years, they come from a variety of ethnic, social and economic backgrounds. Three times per week the girls meet at a small school gymnasium in Berlin’s predominately Turkish suburb of Kreuzberg. Outside the ring, most go their separate ways. But when together, says Cameron, a “team effect” comes into play and each girl is working for the betterment of all involved.
Due to its success in the city of Berlin, Boxgirls has now taken root internationally. Boxgirls-Nairobi, Kenya, with a current enrollment of 40 girls, applies the same training strategies to enrich the lives of African women through boxing – at home, school and in their careers.
David Bathgate is a photojournalist based in Germany. He owns and operates The Compelling Image, an online photography school. He is part of the widely acclaimed exhibit Wide Angle View at the Orange County Center for Contemporary Art, in Santa Ana, California, USA, that runs from February 4 – March 26, 2011.