January issue 2016

By | Profile | Published 4 years ago

For Sanam Maher, a freelance journalist, it all started with an announcement in a newspaper.  Rifling through the sports pages, she came across an ad calling for trainees for an all-girls’ boxing camp in Lyari. It said that it would be coaching girls for the Under-17 category.

Intrigued, Maher headed to Lyari to take a look at the school herself. She found that the girls and their trainers were so motivated that they were willing to jump in the ring in chappals instead of proper training shoes.

Maher followed it up with a story for The New York Times’ Women in the World series that drew in offers of help from assorted people here and abroad. Maher immediately set up a fund for donations and so far she has exceeded her target of $3000.

Maher’s initial plan was to just get them equipment. “My main reason for helping them out was that I did not want them to feel that they were being held back. They never asked for charity, they just wanted to tell the story.”

Maher’s idea expanded into providing the girls a proper boxing ring so that they could train for tournaments. Sports goods companies from Sialkot contacted her and offered to donate uniforms and socks, which have now arrived, according to Maher’s Twitter account. This outpouring of generosity paved the way for Maher to allocate funds for the salaries of coaches, Yousuf Qambriani and his brother Mohammad Hussain Qambriani, who is also the president of the Pak Shaheen Boxing Club. Currently, the duo is training the girls out of a passion for women’s sports. “We have these negative assumptions that men don’t want to help but these guys are fighting for the girls,” says Maher.

She hopes to generate a sustainable flow of funds to keep the boxing school on its feet. “The most important thing right now,” says Maher, “is for the parents to not withdraw their support for it is the only thing keeping the girls going.”

This article was originally published in Newsline’s Annual 2016 issue.