Fighting for peace

How's this for something unexpected? Women-only boxing classes ... in Afghanistan.

Published August 1, 2007 4:47PM (EDT)

Here's an unexpected trend in Afghanistan -- and one that's much less depressing than those mentioned above: female boxing.

According to the BBC, a peace group called Cooperation for Peace and Unity is sponsoring the boxing program in hopes that teaching Afghan women a martial art will improve their self-confidence and self-respect -- and help promote a martial art as something "constructive, not destructive." The women gather in a gym in the same football stadium frequently used by the Taliban for public executions. The article describes the women, who are trained by the same coaches who run the national men's boxing team, as "pac[ing] around, then warm[ing] up on punch-bags before squaring up in pairs against each other for training bouts."

It sounds like a pretty bizarre scene, especially since in between bouts of sparring, the women "sit down and discuss non-violent approaches to conflict resolution." While that sounds great -- I'm all for allowing women to break out of traditional gender roles -- if you're conducting conversations about nonviolent approaches to conflict resolution in a place like Afghanistan, wouldn't it make sense to include Afghan men?

By Catherine Price

Catherine Price is an award-winning journalist and author of Vitamania: How Vitamins Revolutionized the Way We Think About Food. Her written and multimedia work has appeared in publications including The Best American Science Writing, The New York Times, Popular Science, O: The Oprah Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Washington Post Magazine, Salon, Slate, Men’s Journal, Mother Jones, PARADE, Health Magazine, and Outside. Price lives in Philadelphia.

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