The girls-only boxing club battling stereotypes in Gaza

By Saud Abu Ramadan

Gaza, Feb 15 (EFE).- A female-only boxing club in the Gaza Strip, the territory’s first of its kind, is breaking conservative views and gender stereotypes in the coastal enclave ruled by the Hamas Islamist group through empowering Palestinian women and girls to compete internationally.

After years of planning and hard work, a group of boxing enthusiasts has established the Palestinian Boxing Center for Women, which hosts dozens of women aged 8 to 29 who train regularly at its premises.

Through the club, Palestinian women are challenging traditional gender norms and stereotypes in sports that are still dominant among many Gazans.


“Our community traditions force women to stay away from many types of sports under the pretext they are limited to men,” Osama Ayoub, the club’s co-founder, tells Efe. “But now we have planted the seed of boxing for women in Gaza.”

Ayoub, 39, had been mulling the project over when he was taking part in tournaments in Algeria, Egypt, South Korea and Jordan years ago, and he started training girls on the beach and in public parks in Gaza in 2017.

He was inspired after witnessing “the fantastic performance of Arab women of different ages” during international competitions.

When Ayoub pitched his idea to friends and colleagues, none of them thought it would be feasible because people tend to have strictly conservative ideas about women, he says.


But as the project has progressed, the coach says that many people have started to change their views on women’s boxing.

“I love this sport because it gives us confidence and teaches us to defend ourselves,” Hala Ayoub, 18, says.

Her goal is to show everyone that the sport is for both men and women and that “every woman has the right to achieve her ambition and play the sport she loves.”

“I aspire to participate in international tournaments, to raise the Palestinian flag and to have society feel proud of us,” she adds.

For Jodi al-Nimer, 15, boxing opened her eyes to a new world and gave her a positive energy that allowed her to overcome certain fears.

“I dream of becoming a doctor when I grow up and a boxing champion, to represent Palestine in Arab and international competitions,” al-Nimer says as she delivers punches with her boxing gloves.


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