Your Lesson From ‘The Boxing Girls of Kabul’

  • Posted April 16, 2012

Over a decade ago, Ghazi Stadium in Kabul, Afghanistan was home to executions and mutilations performed by the Taliban. Now, Ghazi Stadium is home to Afghanistan’s aspiring athletes. Most notable among these athletes are the several dozen of girls pursuing boxing.


Highlighted in this video is Shabnam Rahimi, 19.

Shedding the physical and mental constraints of the burqa, this new generation of Afghan women will not accept subjugation. They will not accept being relegated to a life imprisoned in their own home. However, as with any revolution, their way of life comes with a high risk. The murderous Taliban hates women’s participation in such ‘liberating’ activities, and they aren’t the only ones. Though not yet taking the extreme action of execution against the girls, many ‘normal’ Afghans also look down upon women’s education and freedom. Further, considering that the strength in numbers of the Taliban (more mistreatment of women is highlighted here) has reportedly quadrupled over the last 3 years, these women’s lives are under a legitimate constant threat.

The threat of death, though, is no match for the will of these women. Their desire for freedom and the pursuit of their dreams is more powerful than the desire of others to enslave and oppress them.

A documentary you are encouraged to see is “The Boxing Girls of Kabul”  from director Ariel Nasr released in 2011. It shows first hand the obstacles these girls overcome. Not only the ignorance and threats of others, but also lack of funding, equipment, and trainers. They didn’t even have a boxing ring! But that was not enough reason to deter them. Just imagine training for international boxing competition with no actual boxing ring…However, with desire, persistence, and faith, anything can be attained.

‘The Boxing Girls of Kabul’ also shows their first actual fights, and it shows the Afghan girls being clearly outmatched, with one score being 14-0 in favor of the opponent. They trained for years only to see their training was so inadequate that they were not even competitive. Most people would see that as a sign to quit, instead though, these girls hearts would not let them quit.

Their persistence is beginning to payoff though. Shabnam’s younger sister Sadaf Rahimi, 18, is now slated to participate in the 2012 Olympic Games in London. She was even able to make it to Cardiff University in the U.K. for training camp to prepare. To put into perspective how commendable this is, female boxing itself is making an Olympic debut. So these Afghan girls are not only blazing trails in their own land, but Sadaf will also be a part of doing it globally! It’s not easy, but it does illustrate what desire, persistence, and faith can breed.

The only ways to deal with failure are to either use it to learn…. or to quit. Too many people opt for the latter for various reasons. When Shabnam and Sadaf first competed, their opponents were so fast that the girls couldn’t think straight. It would have been easy to quit, especially with the threats and lack of proper training. But instead, they learned from their failure and knew they needed to work to be quicker.

As with inventions in general…. how many times do the inventors fail? Thousands? No, zero. Because what others perceived as failures, they perceived as successes. Failures are really just ways in which we find that things can not be done….. getting us one try closer to the success.

These women take that thought process to the next level, for their persistence is in the face of death. But it is their cavalier, ‘middle finger to the sky’ attitude which will not only advance them, but countless other girls in Afghanistan. The power is unimaginable. Once the chains are broken, one cannot simply restore them. When the oppressed taste freedom, their hunger for more becomes so insatiable that they would more likely accept death than to return to their knees.

Wherever you are, its probably a good bet that to pursue your dreams and desires is not as life-threatening. In fact, in most cases its probably not dangerous at all. But too may people are afraid of failure or concerned about what others may think and they end up paralyzed by themselves.

Whether you want to lose weight, find another profession, leave an abusive relationship, try bungee jumping, take up dancing….. anything! The only one holding you back is you.

If some girls in Afghanistan can pursue boxing with little money and equipment while under constant threat, then there is no excuse not to pursue whatever it is your heart desires. Act now, for the perfect time will never come.

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