This is discussion about Boxgirls Roadwork: Girls and Women Running the City.
I have always thought that there could be strong links between athletes in different parts of the world, especially in sports that are a bit off the maintstream, like women's boxing! It seems to me that this could be your target audience in wealthy countries for the cross-financing. At minimum they could organize fund raisers with their friends who may have money. I like this model because it builds on the "sisterhood" element and mutual respect from shared experience in sport, with only economics and culture differentiating the global community.
Thanks for the comment Ziba- lots of women runners I know are keen to support women's running projects in more disadvantaged areas because we know how much satisfaction we get from running. It's the same with women interested in boxing, kick boxing and martial arts, we know it strengthens our minds and bodies and makes us more confident and able to focus our energy. We want to share this with other athletes who do not have the same privileges of great sport infrastructure and training opportunities, and a importantly culture that (most of the time) encourages women's sport.
Once Boxgirls Roadwork gets the geographical balance right the start up financing could be from high income countries (Germany-Berlin and USA - Seattle) supporting lower income ares (Kenya-Nairobi and South Africa-Cape Town). That will get us rolling until we have gathered enough evidence to make the case to insitutional funders and/or built some other income streams.
Plus through our crosstraining all the runners work up some arm muscles and the boxers will have to do more than just shuffle down the road...
train hard, fight easy
-Free University Berlin
This programme is really impressive since it addresses numerous issues that young women are facing all at the same time. It gives young women, who in many communities are left out or forgotten, the opportunity to do something well which can lead to improved self-esteem and more confidence, to improve their health and fitness, to create comfortable safe communities, and most important to have fun. Congratulations on a creating such a positive and innovative programme.
One more thing. You say this is programme is inclusive, can you please expand on how and what you have in mind?
Thanks for the question Amy. We are trying to create programmes where girls using wheelchairs or other mobility devices who want to train with us can tain with us and get the rush off doing boxing and running training in our gym. this is a challenge for us as coaches to create programmes which are tailored to such a heterogeneous group.
do you have experience with mixed groups of wheelchair and non wheelchaiur users? Can anyone else provide examples of good appraoches for integrated training?
-Free University Berlin
You've had some extraordinary experiences, Heather, both in terms of your education and the environments in which you've grown up. Further, it seems as if your mom has served as a strong role model for you through her own interests and activities.
I certainly appreciate the benefits that you assign to cross-training for athletes, and of course you're right in that road work is an essential part of training for boxers. I wonder, though, about your dismissal of the dangers of boxing. Can a committed amateur boxer truly stand clear of the brutality that appears to be present for those who are professionals in the sport?
Thanks for the comment. Amateur or Olympic Boxing is to Professional Boxing as Olympic Greco-Roman Wrestling is to the antics of the WWF. Our project uses boxing floor and partner exercises and directed sparring to help girls and young women learn about controlling space and challenging their limits. Boxing competition is not part of the Boxing Roadworks programme though it is part of the other Boxgirls programmes. All of the girls I work with identify as amateur boxers and do not want to be part of the professional scene as it exists now.
Let me explain quickly for those who do not know the differences between pro and amateur or Olympic boxing.
There are 3 main differences: 1) how opponents are matched, 2) how long the bouts are 3) the scoring and other structures to protect the boxers.
1. MATCHING:In amateur boxing opponents are matched based on weight and experience. Rarely does it come to a mismatch where one is much better. If two boxers who aren’t at the same skill level do come together there are structures in place to protect the weaker boxer (see 3). In Professional Boxing opponents are matched based on the principle that none of the big name boxers should have to face a difficult opponent. There are star boxers who get excellent training and do it full time and then journeymen (and –women) boxers who cannot dedicate full time to their training and get called in often at the last minute to be a fall guy for the star. This system also leads to rapid weight losses and gains by journeyman boxers to meet match weight and can lead to being underhydrated and at risk of injury. This is not sporting when both athletes are not equally well prepared and equipped.
2. BOUT LENGTH:Amateur bouts are 3 or 4 rounds long and the rounds last 2 minutes. Boxers who are properly trained will not be exhausted by that amount of hard ring work. Professional bouts on the other hand can become agonising aerobic marathons of 12 x 3 minute rounds. The boxers become tired and unable to defend themselves against a more powerful opponent.
3. POINTS vs KO: Amateur boxing is based on a points system that rewards boxers for very quick gathering of points in order to dismiss the opponent early in the fight. Amateur boxers also wear certified protective clothing (headguards, mouth guards, gloves, and groin protectors, and breast protectors if they want) which minimises skin injuries and the effect of a punch. If a boxer has a 15 point lead before the last round the fight is called over. Amateur boxing also has 4 people who can call off the fight if after all the care in matching the fights, a bad (uneven) pairing takes place: the referee, either trainer, the boxer herself and the ring doctor. Much more so than in the bad old days before are fights stopped because one boxer was getting hit too often. Profi boxing still fetishizes the knock out and many professional boxers train for one hard punch. Amateurs train to get a lot of quick points up on the board.
“Why fight at all?” people might ask. I think boxing and martial arts training provide unique opportunities for learning about yourself and your courage as an athlete, especially as a female athlete. Women’s socialisation clearly limits how we can control our own boundaries, limit others', and if need be, defend ourselves against aggressive behaviour. It is because boxing is such a challenge and so different from other sports that many girls like it. By connecting our boxing and running programmes in Boxgirls Roadwork we hope to reach out to those girls and young women who already like being active through running and need an opportunity to learn about well coached fighting sports for themselves.
thanks for the question!
Here are some links to recent German press reports on our projects:
http://www.tagesschau.de/multimedia/video/video208522.html (nation TV news on our volunteer boxing trainers)
www.rbb-online.de/_/zibb/beitrag_jsp/key=6188381.html (magazine style show)
www.bz-berlin.de/BZ/berlin/2007/09/09/ring-frei-fuer-box-girls/ring-frei... (major Berlin boulevard newspaper Sunday edition half page spread on us)
Let us know what you think! Sorry no english translations as yet - any one who feels like they would like to take a crack at it would get a beautiful rare boxgirls berlin t shirt!
- Free University Berlin
This is an excellent concept. Combining two of the most physically demanding sports will be beneficial to all of those who participate. I know this is idea is exclusively for girls, but I was wondering if there are any future plans for possibly making the program co-ed? The discipline that is instilled through this program I think would be beneficial to all athletes, not just girls.
Center for the Study of Sport in Society
Thanks Charles for the comment. We have a lot of interest from men and from mothers who want their son to box with us. I agree they would benefit from our running and boxing programmes. We may do a boxboys pilot!
Can you write something about what sort of work your centre does?
Free University Berlin
Thanks for this highly interesting project description!
As far as I understand one of the goals of Boxgirls is to increase self-initiative and self-determination of the girls. Can you explain a bit more the relation between this and doing sports?
finally i found enough time to write sth. here!
i can see in training that the girls get more and more confident, that they take their space, that they communicate needs and borders
-getting the gym ready before and after training
-preparing and reading a paper in school about mohammed ali
-leading a workshop in a foreign language in front of a lot of people
-helping and to take leader roles in different sportsevents
-reacting on a provocative question from the teacher: ah ja? so you could show us how to box?? with "yes" and doing it
-showing up the own borders and defending them in school and at home with the parents
-fighting for your rights in school and at home -verbal
-defending their sport-boxing-in front of teachers, friends, family, press, students
this and a lot more i would say is also connected with doing sports-boxing in this case..and the girls also told me that they feel more self-confident (i can see in training that the girls get more and more confident, that they take their space, that they communicate needs and borders) which is an assumption to show self-initiative and self-determination..
and at the same time increases it again more and more..
a lot of greetings
Thank you for the question which is deceptively simple. All of us here know how hard it is to actually explain how our work with young people through sports leads to behavioural changes - we just see it happen. Since I do work with evaluation of sport programmes for my university (after trying for years on a practical level to figure out why boxgirls and other sports programmes work or not) I have had to come up with more of a systematic approach.
What you are asking is what some people call a "theory of change" - What is my explanation for why something changes? (namely that a girl shows more initiative after being in a sports programme for a few months than before) For boxgirls roadwork I would argue the following:
- Many of the girls we work with were not well integrated into a social group before because of aggressive or dominant behaviour or general lack of tuned social skills
- Many of the girls were not getting positive feedback about their "disruptive" energy levels or athleticism
- Some girls had a non conventional self presentation (goth, punk, gender non conformist/"butch") which was not accepted in their family or school.
- These girls were not doing regular physical activity which supported growth of muscle and losing fat and gaining aerobic capacity as well as burning off aggressive energy.
This means that many were socially isolated, under supported and physically restless.
Our project helps stabilise their sense of being valuable and respected. I think if people feel that and are not hampered in some other way they will take more self initiative. I believe people take initiative unless they have been trained not to.
Our programme is tailored to offer the following:
- to integrate the girls into a training team through shared experiences in and outside the gym, shared successes and learning cool other skills - like making videos or kayaking etc.
- we support girls who have a lot of energy and direct it away from being disruptive and into physical activity. We respect and admire girls who work hard in the gym and build strong beautiful bodies through sport rather than starving or poisoning themselves with cigarettes or diet drugs.
- we have trainers and a club full of women which is extremely diverse in terms of class, eduation, gender position, career, family type, ability, sexual preference and religion (to name but a few...) We show the girls a wide palette of ways to be a woman in the world. With our partner projects coming on line we will be able to do more cross cultural work. In any case we show that not all girls need to look like Barbie and that to have arm muscles is cool.
- finally we have very well designed and tested training routines which can be tailored to any ability and experience level so that the girls can know that if the commit they will get fit fast. This creates a great degree of self satisfaction and also leads to more of a "We/I can do it" since I have done what I thought is impossible before.
ANother point that I will bring up as a separate comment since I have to think more about it is...fighting sports bring up something very basic and foundational in some women and girls about a very basic need for physical security and integrity. Knowing that she has more choice with her personal security gives these girls
and women a basic confidence that they did not have before. at a completely different level ... more on this in another post...
Take a look at the German video on RBB attached above - R. our boxer is saying she could not believe it that she has learned so much in such a short time. It shows the young women that committing to training and supporting each other and feeling each others respect is all worth it.
I would love for more people to reflect on the THEORY OF CHANGE for their projects. WHY does your project create effects? What are you assuming is happening?
When initiating an inclusive programme it is important to involve the participants in the design from the outset. They know what they need to participate - just ask! Once you ask you will better understand how to accomodate them. Typically there is not a lot of extra work that needs to be done to make a programme inclusive. Everyone needs access to the venue & equipment, coaches that are willing to learn about individual abilities of the participants and tailor their techniques remembering we have need the same motivation regardless of our physical abilities. There are some materials available from the Canadian Association of Coaching and the Australian Sports Commission about Coaching Athletes with a Disability. Both are very good and target slightly different audiences. The Canadian resource is designed for already certified coaches to learn how to work with persons with a disability and the Australian is for more general coaches that may not have a high level of certification. For specific adaptive boxing techniques I am not aware of any, therefore I recommend you create them through your programme and consider bringing on board a specialist say in adapted physical activity, an experience coach, a persons with a disability or a university professor to help guide you. You will find it quite easy to learn as you go.
Amy Farkas, Development Manager, International Paralympic Committee
Thanks Amy for your comment about resources for creating sporting opportunities where all sorts of athletes can take part - including those using wheelchairs and other mobility devices. I have looked into how we could make our boxing gym accessible through a ramp over the few stairs we have into the gym and have spoken to the German Disability SPort federation about studying for a new coaching license for working with athletes with different needs. Many of the paralympic athletes I have met conduct the most insanely demanding upper body workouts (girls doing full parallel bar dips and chin ups !!!) and have the most beautiful triceps and shoulder muscles that they would have a lot to teach our girls about focussed workouts. I am familiar with the Canadian resources but not the Australian guides. I will take a look. Do you know a web reference for these resources? are they open source?
My plan is to invite some paralympic martial artists - judo for example but also I know a karate black belt who uses a wheelchair and work with them on how to adapt our programme further to provide a challenging training environment for girls in similar situations.
Thanks for the resource tips. I will be in touch.
I am convinced of the positive results of Boxgirls in Berlin and deeply believe in the future prospects Boxgirls International can offer to every city in the world. Regardless what culture one lives in: Physically focused women sports are hardly accepted without thinking of the social importance for women. I know that you serve different nationalities already in Berlin but I am interested in why and what kind of methods the programm covers that you can deal with such a multicultural client group: Americans, Africans, Asian, etc.?
Hi Sebastian. Great to see you online at changemakers! How are things with your creare project?
Boxgirls International (BGI) does not want to pretend to know everything about how to do a running and boxing project in all corners of the world. We want to support existing boxing clubs and running clubs to work together to create more opportunities for girls. We want the clubs to be locally run by peopel who kow the children, the parents the schools and the girls scene in the cities where they work. We will help by providing some technical expertise which is pretty applicable across the board and shared in a collegial what I can learn from you what can you learn from me way. for example, we want to work togther with the coaches at SCORE in South Africa because they are so admired for their ways of getting people energized and motivated and stressing fun. They want to work with us because of our technical know how around boxing and self defense, around evaluation and about sports performance measurement. We can learn a lot from each other based on what our our culture's sport training systems stress. I think the role of BGI will be to create the infrastructure for roadwork: write curricula (which will be adapted on site), raise money, raise awareness, set up administrative infrastructure, set up communications and set up evaluation, coordinate exchanges runs and tournaments and thereby create a space for local leaders to get on with the sports and personality development from their local angle.
All that said we have a few principles about women's leadership and project accountability which we will not adapt. But it is because of our project's goals and principles that people want to work with us.
Thanks for the question.
all the best from Berlin
The boxgirls roadwork project is very ambitious, but I'm confident it is going to be a very great one. The combination of boxing and running is inventive and also something new. I hope the project will spread all over the world and will be also available somewhere near my city. I visited boxgirls last week and I hope the team that built the project boxcamp kreuzberg will have as much success with the roadwork!
Boxing is an amazingly subject to get attention for women and girls sports at all. Women and boxing - unusal- girls and boxing - whow - really ? I hosted a lot of boxgirls events and the girls are so focused on these workshops - and they are so proud wearing these gloves and hit the bag or the trainers gloves- and they have fun! Not every girl wants to box but a lot of girls like running a lot- and you can do it everywhere- and then maybe more sports...? Great idea - great opportunities.
It means a lot that your group got your project up - hey everone also check out the Leyla Rannt girls festival entry - and that you are commenting on ours. We always have a great time giving sport demonstrations at festivals especially when they are as fun as yours. I have always admired your ability to work with all sorts of people, including those who knew nothing about girls sport and who weren't so respectful of your efforts.
I think here is a great place to remember how important networking is and supporting existing networks and structures even when they can drain your patience. Too many people especially those new to sport try and just build it all anew...especially know-it-all ambitious entrepreneurs (!!). :) I think it is great when many actors can be brought into win win situations and I respect how your project has been able to bring so many different people together. We hope that the roadworks idea will bring even more girls to the gym and allow us to share a message of girls empowerment and leadership.
All the best
-Free University Berlin
I really like how this project adresses various issues at the same time and brings together different sports, concepts, areas of the world etc. in order to create a dialogue. As regards the "theory of change" behind the goal of increasing self-determination for girls and young women through sports, I think it´s fruitful to think about this in terms of giving young people a chance to experience empowering spaces in which they can really achieve something by applying themselves - as opposed to the sometimes rigid gender/class norms they struggle under elsewhere in their lives. As Heather said: Working together with others who struggle with the same issues as yourself is great opportunity to live/experience/do solidarity rather than theorize about it. I wonder whether this might not be taken to another level by enabling some sort of exchange programme later in the project i.e. bringing girls from Berlin to Cape Town and vice versa? An international "Boxgirls Roadwork Competition" may also be a great way of getting the press interested btw. Having a media network and internet exchange is a good start, but since solidarity and creating spaces for young women is such an important feature of this project, I´d really love to see some real life travelling enhancing this aspect.
Hello Jasper - thanks for your thoughtful comment.
I agree totally with your idea about young people experiencing different spaces and growing because of the new challenges. We are also going to look into youth exchanges and real life travelling alongside virtually training together. We will create some stable partnerships and then look into how we can raise some money to make big runs and or tournaments happen. Part of the concept is to do coaching and evaluation training with the coaches/project leaders together...it is easier to finance 5 rather than 25 people travelling.
Has anyone got any good stories about raising money for youth exchanges or getting transport providers (airlines, train, boats) to sponsor sports projects? I know Trevor Dudley from the Kids League in Uganda manages to get some excellent exchange programmes going. I will ask him for his advice. Please chip in with ideas...
ALl the best from Berlin
-Free University Berlin
the old proverb "mens sana.." is, I think, less dust-covered as it seems if I imagine the reality of such a non-profit entreprise like "boxgirls roadwork". To have his or her body in control and ready affects the all day life in many respects as it parallels the state of mind with the physical, concerning the care after oneself e.g. with exercises (in both domains), to care for others in the sportive dialogue albeit also a confrontation (in both domains), to develop from a passive habit into an active as a self's chairman (in both domains)... there are many aspects to derive from into positive personal principles. And it might, even as a symbol, enhance an increase of such women like Dora Akunyili of Nigeria, fighting undauntedly the business of pharma pushers who don't care anything except the bucks, but surely an either important supporting base of the "anonymous courage" as a common sense, fostering a bright future for this wonderful and rich continent we possibly all stem from.
Thanks for the comment and Latin. Here is my bad translation of Nietzsche on boxing. People used to call me The Philosopher Boxer – and I loved playing on the fact that people were so surprised that I was a university philosophy teacher and also a boxing coach. To me it makes total sense. I believe that all children need more opportunities for well designed physical activity in order to also meet their academic potential and to grow into people who can take care of themselves and contribute to the society in which they are a part. That is why our project tries to instil the values of taking responsibility for yourself to be an active member of your community – be informed, be active, do not be someone who looks away when there is work to be done.
thanks...are you also thinking of Foucault when you write about "caring for yourself" ? -- if so we should really start a sidebar as I would love to hear more about that – mail me a private msg
Free University Berlin
Thanks for the comment Lisa Marie. We were very glad to host such a precocious martial artist with us in Berlin. We all enjoyed thinking about and answering your questions for your high school senior essay. I hope the writing of the essay is as fun as the research! We also hope that we will be able to be offering Boxgirls Roadwork with boxing clubs and running clubs in Zurich soon. Any takers? Write me at firstname.lastname@example.org
send us a photo with you in your boxgirls shirt doing something Swiss!
I am a researcher in a socially difficult inner city area in South Africa, and I am a runner.
My work is on "public space" and how people do not use it, due to a widespread fear of crime. Parks, sidewalks, and even urban beaches become empty because walking there is seen as suicidal. The Boxgirls Roadwork idea can break out of such vicious circles: running through the city is a way of claiming back the streets for people on foot, of temporallily "taking over" space and of publicly displaying fitness, movement, fun and a clear "yes" to the city. It is running where walking is not on. In places where moving without a car is seen as a sign of poverty and disempowerment, choosing to run in public can confront such stereotypes. When I see people running through urban areas it is mainly men. Getting more women and girls to run the city (especially in cool boxer outfits), would both display and create a higher confidence for women in shaping and using public space.
Very important project. Inspiring and political.
Thank you for drawing the line between running through the city and creating public safety and ultimately greater quality of life. My best example of this is the inspiring project of Nawal El Moutawakel and her run for fun of 10k in Casablanca Morocco.
check out the short video from Insight Share!
The women and girls take over the space for perhaps just a day but the city looks different to them afterwards. I have had the chance to participate twice and it is very moving. Even if the Boxgirls Project does not go running with 10 000 girls and women like Nawal does, running in a group through the city, lifts spirits and gives other women confidence to use public space. As more female and male runners use the space the safer it will be for everyone. It is about turning the vicious circle of urban emptiness and decay into a virtuous circle of activity, visibility, safety and enjoyment.
Thanks for your comment. This is also why we are pursuing a relationship with UN Habitat as they look for innovative projects around urban safety and youth involvement.
All the best from Berlin
I was delighted to read about your initiative. Not only are you providing an outlet to establish self esteem in these women, you are encouraging sport and strength training in a safe and suportive environment...I wish I had this opportunity as well- Great job
Hi Janice! Great that you got online to look at the new project. You had the chance to see us live a few years ago in Berlin - we have grown a lot eh?
How do you think Boxgirls Roadwork would have to be presented to be successful with young women like yourself in Toronto?
Do you think that girls and women in Toronto would have a problem subsidizing the projects in Nairobi and Cape Town?
Thanks for the comment. I look forward to hearing more from you.
Wow, your entry has spurred much discussion!
The Changemakers team wanted to know if you could detailed the means by which your program is socially enabling these girls. We would like you to expand on the transition of trainig to real world defense in context of the girl's age group, their varying vulnerability and how this has been effective especially to be introduced to the certain age brackets.
There is also a great entry by Running Start Foundation that we thought could gain a lot by speaking with you. They've a program that provides the connections for East African runners to obtain education and to participate in the sport. With the incorporation of all runners alike, indeed safe spaces can be created! Take a look at their entry here: http://www.changemakers.net/en-us/node/1983, you may find it interesting!
Thanks for the question Tyler and thanks to everyone who is taking the time to pose some really good questions - I too am really enjoying the debate.
Part of the reason I love boxing and running so much is that there is not a big gap between"training" and "real life". If you want girls to use public space and feel secure and strong, well go run through the streets in a group. Doing the sport is achieving the goal directly not preparing people to achieve the goal. The same with boxing, do you want girls to have a better feeling for balance - do exercises around balance, do you want to develop a better feeling for their "defensible space" then have them do partner exercises where the realise how far away they can be and still hit someone or how near and still not be hit. I have always thought that the basic balance and spatial recognition skills that you learn by boxing are what help in a difficult situation.
you can breathe, you can balance and you can get out of the way.
Currently we work with girls and young women from 14 up. We have members of our boxing club that go running with us who are 54 years old. Obviously there is a lot of different needs in such a varied group. We also do regular 3 times in the year workshops with younger children at their schools or sportsfestivals. We tried to integrate them into training but the needs were very different. We will keep cooperating with Lelya Rennt and our school programmes to work with younger kids but our focus is on the more difficult teenager time. With the roadwork programme we have the girls programme and then a general programme where anyone can take part. The more general programme directed at the women is not as structured. We offer a programme in a great environment and we hope they take us up on it. For the girls we offer more support and structure.
For the young women and girls under 24 we have a structured programme where they learn the physical skills and we also offer them different structured or non structured learning opportunities (media training, video, internet, press relations) as well as most importantly the chance to help lead the programme. Our girls trainer Sarah always has the girls help lead the training or the workshops and work with the press. This is very much learning by doing for softer skills like presentation or teaching skills.
We also invite them to events with us and do not stop at being the entertainment - we invite them to take part in the discussion. We introduce them to the Senator for Urban Development for example who was in our gym last year and let them discuss with her what sort of things they would like to be seen done in the neighbourhoods. Of course we let them prepare in advance but a few opportunities like this help open the eyes of what is possible and that their ideas matter and they should prepare themselves.
Most importantly is that we have always had an amazing team of coaches and other volunteers who were quite inspiring to the girls - as musicians, university teachers, craftspeople, professionals etc. Our coaching staff spends a lot of time with the girls just talking about everything other than boxing and running.
Its our plan and our people that make it work.
Thanks for the question
what a great discussion your project has started - very interesting!
What I am really curious about - since we also rely on it - is how you work with the many volunteers that help with the project. How do you recruit them, how do you motivate them, how do you keep them, how do you support them improving their skills?
Good luck and many greetings!
Hi Ines, Hi Itong
That is the most important question of all isn't it? How do we get and keep the right people to do the job without having the regular instruments of wages or job structures to rely on. I think Itong is right to stress the need for people to identify with a big picture, giving people something they can see themselves contributing to, making it clear how what they do helps the whole project grow. Making the links clear. I also think it is important to find out what people are trying to achieve in other areas of theier lives and to tie in their work with your project with their other projects whether it be training or access to people or using club resources for something.
Trying to create an environment which is efficient and does not create busy work is important too. And training, I think it is so important to remember that if someone is working for "free" it is not for free but because they want to learn and to come up with ways so that your organisation is a learning organisation and that you promote people from within the organisation as you grow.
Other thoughts? What do you do with your team for Creare-online?
Free University Berlin
(deleted multiple comments)
Hi Cameron, Ines and Itong,
as I´ve said before, one of the great things about this particular project is how it does not use the fun things it has to offer for young women as a front to achieve some educational goal or to build character on an entirely other level - here doing the fun things *is* the educational, character building point. You box, you run, you get together with other people your age, you improve your performance, which opens up new space in the city for you, makes you more self-confident and literally prepares you for other areas in your life. I guess this is also what attracts volunteers to this project, since becoming involved with Boxgirls Roadwork pays off in many respects, not just financially.
Free University Berlin
whow what a lot of comments
i guess this is a discussion for every project ?
I could imagine: when there is something going on- an atmosphere of- a good connection between people, respect, a good atmosphere of- we got a vision and we are politcal and on top we have fun together doing sports and making friends. Well ... I would like to join and I would bring others.
Please do include your friends in this very fascinating discussion.
This is a very interesting initiative.
How do people work with a wide range of children and young people from different religious and class positions? A lot of us are working with people who are from a disadvantaged community but are not also working with middle class people. I know at the Kampala Kids League that they integrate one or two of the children who have been exposed to the fighting in the northern parts of Uganda into a team of kids who have been spared such trauma since a team of all ex fighter kids would be too difficult to get together and work with. Who else is running a project that brings different parts of the community together - I see some of the "peace making" projects do this... what about other differences and the issue of how having different groups together can also help pay for the projects as middle class kids can pay for the club and the other kids are subsidized. We do this in boxgirls in that the adults subsidise the kids and that the adults pay on a sliding scale basis allowing people on income assistance or no income at all to participate at a much lower rate.
I would love to hear how other groups achieve and maintain diversity in their memberships
Free University Berlin
I´d be interested to know whether you could relate some of your experiences from Boxgirls Berlin concerning violence (on the streets, in families etc) and how the kids who come there deal with it. Berlin-Kreuzberg, where you are located, is a great place, but also a place with a lot of tensions going on. Does some of that show in you daily boxing?
Free University Berlin
Your project sounds like a great and very original initiative. We absolutely agree with the need to improve the safety of girls and women in developing countries like Kenya since a high percentage become victims of violence and sexual harness. As we understand you aim to make women feeling safe by teaching them boxing skills. In our view this can be useful, but might also be a threat since it can provoke even more violence. When women feel more confident about their abilities they might start fighting rather then start the discussion first. Do you focus on using boxing as the last method of self-defense, by also teach them to solve problems without using violence? Besides we were wondering how you see the role of the community members within the project. Do you try to educate them as well in order to create a safer environment or do you focus on the girls and women who are participating in the project?
The last questions concern the recruitment of participants. We were very glad to read that you also give a chance to people with disabilities. It is great that you try to include them in your project. You were speaking about paralympic athletes (physical disabilities), but do you also aim to include the athletes with mental and hearing impairments? And how do you intend to recruit them? Besides the women in the communities might be locked in their role of woman and might not be able to do the first step to integrate your project. We would like to know how you are going to overcome this obstacle?
It might be useful to discuss a possible collaboration between MYSA and Boxgirls Roadwork in the recruitment of participants with disabilties in order to give them the opportunity to be physical active in different sports and let them benefit from the different positive effects. Besides, since you were planning to use fitness facilities, you might have a look at MYSA’s fitness hall at the headquarters in Komarock.
We are looking forward to hear your answers and wish you all the best with this very interesting project.
Pierre and Steffi
Hi Pierre and Steffi,
though boxing might look pretty violent at first, I guess what this project tries to do is not to teach women and girls to be more violent, but to give them more self-confidence by buidling trust in what they can do - with their bodies AND their minds. Though I never tried it myself, I hear that boxing is far from just beating someone mindlessly, but requires some considerable strategic and psychological understanding. I imagine that a person who feels more secure and has more confidence into her abilities is far less likely to appear like a victim and act overly shy and timid, which might encourage others to put them down. A secure person can handle situations in a way that prevents them from becoming threatening situations in the first place, because she is less likely to be afraid and therefore less likely to do stupid things, I´d say. This does not mean that such a person would always react violenty, but on the contrary would be less likely to be in situation in whcih she would have to resort to violence.
Free University Berlin
Thanks for your questions. We are teaching girls to be safe not just by teaching them running and boxing skills but by encouraging them develop more confidence self respect and awareness of their environment. We do not promote people actively using their punching skills in a dangerous situation but rather the fact that they have good balance, reactions and ability to read distances through boxing training to avoid being punched and to safely get out of harms way. Plus they learn to saty calm when others are aggressive which serves anyone.
I do not agree that people who know how to fight necessarily choose to fight rather than talk. In fact the opposite, the confidence and self awareness of an athlete means that often the problem a) does not come up because the athlete does not look like an easy target and b) the athlete has nothing to prove and does not lose her cool but can distance herself from the unsafe situation.
We have build in conflict resolution training as wel as model it to the girls in our programmes so that they have the skills to help themselves and others deal with conflict. Please take a look at some of my answers below in more detail on this theme.
Involvement of the community is a big part of our plan for our neighbourhood events and training strategy. In the Eastlands we hold our training and will create neighbourhood friendly events and runs to be present and also invite parents and other interested community members to our training.
Concerning recruitment of girls using mobility devices. We plan at first to do event type training with these girls, to offer workshops and the like but we do not have the capacity in Kenya yet to have them be part of the weekly training programme. We plan to work with Handicap International and others active in Paralympian sport, and of course yourselves, to offer targetted events a few times a year with the girls in ou programme and other girls with a disability. Once we have more capacity we will build a more regular trainings schedule. If there is demand we will also offer these boxing workshops to children with other sorts of impairments.
I have had the chance to visit Mysas facilities and talk with various Mysa administrators and would welcome the chance to see how we can work together. We have a facility to do the training at but I am sure we can learn from one another and offer a wide palette of activities.
All the best from Berlin - well actually Bonn I am at the Headquarters of the International Paralympic Committee today. So all the best to you and your partners at the Kenyan Paralympic Committee.
free university berlin
Your project is impressive and innovative. It is a great to see a project that has a sustainable element built in that makes your programs possible in disadvantaged communities, while bringing people from different parts of the world closer together though their support. Your idea of empowering women in non-traditional ways to give them the confidence they need to succeed, to challenge the stereotypes, and building leaders and athletes for the future is brilliant.
Although our programs at H4H benefit of both boys and girls and we teach about gender and risk, we have started a new campaign called Siyabongirla “We Cheer the Girls” which aims to bring together several organizations including the Sonke Gender Network and Womens Right groups to address the specific challenges and risks girls and women face every day, and to give more opportunities to women in our communities. I hope we can learn from your program and figure out how to collaborate in the future.
Hoops 4 Hope
Having our focus on running and not just boxing allows us to partner with more projects, like basketball, since most athletes need to do something for their cardio conditioning. In addition to the training benefit, the runs allow us to use the public space as a stage for the girls to perfrom their strength and confidence on as well as engage the neighbourhood to a) know about the project and b) take part.
It would be great if we could host some fun runs with the boxgirls in all of the cities we are active in to raise awareness, money, and people's heart rates!
Thank you for your kind words and offer to discuss possible ways we can learn from each other and collaborate. I read your entry with interest and think there are a few places we could start looking:
- design of life skills curricula and reaching girls through various pedagogic approaches
- "conflict resolution tournaments" I want to know what those are! We are doing some conflict resolution workshops and work but would love to learn more about what you are doing.
- general issues about working with girls and talking about risk.
I will let you pick! :) I am excited about talking with you about any of these themes or others that you would prioritise. Our next area we are looking at to support is Cape Town. Perhaps we can talk about programmes in the Cape Flats or elsewhere that Boxgirls Roadwork could invite to benefit from the network.
All the best from Hainichen (outside Leipzig) Germany
Running is at the heart of our project because running or in boxer speak "roadwork" is both a beautiful means and an end in itself. Running makes you fit, makes you sweat, makes you explore your city and makes you visible. It helps burn off excess weight, it reduces stress, it releases good hormones and it raises your body temperature so that you can have a good stretch afterwards. Anyone can run or walk run and it costs little. running also allows everyone in the family, school or neighbourhood to take part...running lends itself to both group and solitary events...high tech or low tech... fun or demanding. I love running to feel strong and part of my neighbourhood. I always want to run (even if I do not always manage to) when I visit new cities. I feel part of it and I experience the space as a local. I am exciting about expanding more into running. a pass time that got me started as an athlete and as a coach. One of my favourite memories is running through the snow in Berlin alsong the Landwher canal with two friends from boxing and we well into step and we just heard each other's breathing and footfalls in the snow and we had about 400 meters more on a 15k run and we felt great and proud of ourselves and each other. running is a big part of many people's lives. Dear social innovator...what is your favourite running experience?
Running helps me to forget about myself. It helps me to forget about the world around me. I start running, and I slowly slip into that state of mind where only the sound of my breath and my beating heart matter. When I run, I stop thinking at some point and do nothing but run. For a deeply un-spiritual person like me, it´s quite a spiritual experience. Paradoxically (or not), emerging from my running state of mind, I can relate better to other people and cope with what the day has in stock for me. I never tried boxing - is there a similar effect? Maybe there is, and maybe there is to any physical activity, but running with its natural focus on repetitive motion and rhythm helps me get to that special non-place better than anything else.
Free University Berlin
Great ideas and project. I have always been a strong supporter of the value sport brings to our everyday lives. As a classroom teacher I am disappointed to see how many of the children spend their free time watching television or playing video games. Everybody needs to get outside and enjoy the benefits of being active. Boxgirls Roadwork will help provide young girls and women with the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of participating in sports and of feeling more self confident. All the best.