Saudi women put on boxing gloves for sporting glory, self-defense

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A young Saudi woman tightens the band around her wrist and puts on her boxing glove before starting a training class inside a boxing hall in one of the specialized clubs in Khobar, eastern Saudi Arabia.

Fatema al-Nuaimi then starts to move lightly around the punching bag as Esraa Qadri moves toward her, challenging her to a friendly spar.

These young women are a growing segment of society who are taking up different sports as gyms and clubs begin opening their doors to females across the country.

Throwing punches

Al Arabiya English joined the two young women in the enthusiastic atmosphere during their boxing class and heard from their trainer Fatema al-Nuaimi.

Nuaimi says she has always loved sports activities, especially boxing. After first learning the sport, she says she has carried on persistently and intensively trainings to achieve her progress at all the different programs and levels, eventually becoming the first Saudi woman to get a master’s degree in the Pink Gloves Boxing program.

She moves between Khobar and Jeddah to teach young women who are interested in her training classes specialized in boxing and its rules. She said she hopes that, eventually, they’ll be qualified enough to then become trainers themselves and pass on the skills to more women.

Inviting girls to the ring

“Boxing is a spirit sport. It provides fitness, intelligence, and nourishment of the soul. It is also a self-defense method, when needed,” Qadri told Al Arabiya English. “That’s why I encouraged and invited young women to practice it, for its importance in developing her personality, physical and mental health,” she added.

Boxing is a sport that has emerged in a society that has traditionally viewed it as suited only for men.