Saudi boxer Halah Alhamrani, 41, is quietly leading a push to give women the right to exercise — a cultural taboo in a country where, until 2014, physical education classes for girls were banned. Alhamrani has long operated a low-profile gym in Jeddah called FlagBoxing that offers fitness classes such as callisthenics, CrossFit, boxing and kickboxing. Her gym’s motto? “Fight Like a Girl.”
Speaking with AFP, Alhamrani said that women typically hear about her classes through word of mouth, and that they often come to visit for the first time with their mothers in tow.
“I offer for them [the mothers] to sit in on a class and watch the transformation that happens to their daughters within that one hour, and they walk out with a smile on their face,” Alhamrani said. “They walk out more confident. Many find their voice. The mothers approach me and say: ‘Thank you for offering such an empowering feeling.’”
Inside the gym, which has around 150 members, women strip off their abayas and put on workout attire to exercise to the beat of thumping music. For many of them, Alhamrani said, the simple act of being able to exercise is so freeing that many end up crying from the joy of it.
“I used to be a timid mother who could not look people in the eye,” explained one 36-year-old mother of four. “The gym gave me a voice that I had lost. It gave me strength that I never knew existed.”
Watch video from AFP’s report on Alhamrani below.
Throwing punches in a gym tucked away from prying eyes, a Saudi female boxing trainer asserts a right long denied to many women in the conservative kingdom — the right to exercise.
Posted by AFP News Agency on Sunday, March 18, 2018
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