Uganda's female slum boxers

Meet the female boxers fighting for their future in a Kampala slum.

    The boxers warm up at their ramshackle Katanga slum training club, although they lack boxing basics like gloves, belts, boots and even water [Edward Echwalu/Al Jazeera]
    The boxers warm up at their ramshackle Katanga slum training club, although they lack boxing basics like gloves, belts, boots and even water [Edward Echwalu/Al Jazeera]

    Kampala, Uganda - They live impoverished lives in one of the largest slums in the Ugandan capital, Kampala. Without permanent shelter or jobs, 23-year-old Morine Nakilyowa, 17-year-old Lydia Nantale, 24-year-old Hellen Baleke and 20-year-old Diana Tulyanabo have resorted to boxing as a way to survive the harsh conditions of the crime-ridden Katanga slum. 

    Over the past few years, they have featured prominently in local tournaments, representing the Katanga-based Rhino Boxing Club. But the women have yet to get the recognition afforded to their male counterparts. 

    The closest these female boxers have come to career-defining moments was a potential debut at the International Boxing Association's World Amateur Boxing Championships in China in 2012 - only to be let down by a lack of funding from their government. 
    Watch: 'Tales from the Slums' of Kenya opens in Cannes Film Festival

    Since then, the boxers have had to contend with the absence of a functioning amateur boxing body and a limited number of credible opponents as they struggle to make their mark. To keep active, they seek out boxers from across the border - in Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania - and feature on the undercards of locally-arranged professional fights. In extreme circumstances, they take each other on at catch-weights.

    But, despite the setbacks, the foursome still harbours big dreams of representing Uganda at major international tournaments.


    Hellen Baleke, left, and Lydia Nantale practise their jabs [Edward Echwalu/Al Jazeera] 

    The old, worn-out boxing gloves used by the women boxers are kept for fight days. They mostly train with their bare fists [Edward Echwalu/Al Jazeera] 

    Morine Nakilyowa has won two of her five professional fights [Edward Echwalu/Al Jazeera] 

    Hellen Baleke, the most experienced of the four boxers with 11 wins, four draws and a single loss to her name, practises her punches on an old car tyre, as they cannot afford actual punch bags [Edward Echwalu/Al Jazeera] 

    Morine Nakilyowa and Hellen Baleke watch their trainers box [Edward Echwalu/Al Jazeera] 

    Hellen Baleke is taken through a training session by her trainer. Since the women are not in a position to hire a permanent coach, they are trained by part-time male boxers who take part of their commission from professional fights. The only way the women earn any money from their sweat is through the mostly locally organised bouts [Edward Echwalu/Al Jazeera] 

    Morine Nakilyowa says her four children have inspired her to pursue her boxing career. 'I am a boxer because of mainly three reasons,' she says: 'Passion, to fend for family, and protect my children from this volatile environment' [Edward Echwalu/Al Jazeera] 

    This article first appeared in the Al Jazeera Magazine.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera



    Musta'ribeen, Israel's agents who pose as Palestinians

    Who are the Israeli agents posing as Palestinians?

    Musta'ribeen are an elite Israeli undercover unit that disguises themselves as Arabs or Palestinians.

    Stories from the sex trade

    Stories from the sex trade

    Dutch sex workers, pimps and johns share their stories.

     How Britain Destroyed the Palestinian Homeland

    How Britain Destroyed the Palestinian Homeland

    100 years since Balfour's "promise", Palestinians insist that their rights in Palestine cannot be dismissed.