Former Spice Girl star during a visit to the country last month was mesmerised by the determination of members of Boxgirls Kenya, an organisation founded by former boxing coach Alfred Analo
Grace Wachira @yaa_grace
When you walk into Kariobangi North Town Hall on weekdays, the room is full of girls spurring, others shadow boxing, and a few jumping ropes or punching bags.
So it is not surprising when Former Spice Girls star, Victoria Beckham who is also wife to footballer, David Beckham visited the facility last month, she was wowed at the sheer determination of the young girls.
On her Instagram page, Victoria gushed out: I am just here hanging out with the girls, talking about boxing and what they get out of boxing. It’s super interesting. The girls have big dreams! I’m sitting next to future lawyers, doctors, engineers, artists and surgeons.
Victoria was on a humanitarian trip in support of Sports Relief, a UK non-profit, charity event. The girls are part of a project initiated by Boxgirls Kenya, an organisation started by boxing coach Alfred Analo whose nickname is Priest. Analo started Boxgirls Kenya 10 years ago having been in the sport for more than 20 years.
“I noticed how women in the society were vulnerable and I decided to find a way to help them stand up for themselves. The intention was to train the women to defend themselves, but we fused life skills into the programme,” he says.
Over 1,400 girls are enrolled into the programme that employs nine people. “We have a schools’ outreach programme and that is how we get to the girls in primary schools,” he says. Professional boxers train the girls and also equip them with life skills. In 2013, they opened another facility in Kakamega that hosts 300 girls.
“The girls range from seven to 24 years and come from as far as Kayole to train with us every morning,” says Analo. The coaches use the same tactics used to learn boxing to teach girls about discipline and life. “Boxing is life in the sense that they learn to co-exist with men around them.
They are not only empowered physically, but also emotionally. The power to act is awakened from within. You know boxing entails a lot of walking around and prancing before and after the punches. We translate that into how to get around challenges in life.
We tell them that even after they encounter a problem, they can get around it in a thousand different ways and still succeed,” he says. They vet the girls before signing them up. “We do not want cases where our boxers use the boxing skills they get here to get into a life of crime.
We have to establish why they want to learn boxing before taking them on board,” Analo clarifies. Analo leaves his residence in Ruai everyday to come to Kariobangi North to train the girls.
“If I give up on them on the days that my spirits are low, what will happen to the little lights we have ignited in them? I have to come so that I see through their growth individually,” he says.
Parents of the girls appreciate what he does. “When we last had a parents’ meeting, over 300 came and they were pleased with how their daughters were faring.
I also trained Conjestina and others who have been selected from right here to join the national boxing team and represent Kenya. That makes me proud,” Analo says. The community was at first not receptive because boxing is largely thought to be a male-dominated sport.
Breaking stereotypes is among some of the challenges they encounter. “We also do not have a space of our own where we can train as well as hygienic washrooms.
At times, changing the attitudes of the girls is tough, but eventually, they come around and become better than they were,” he adds. Apart from the girls bagging titles, both locally and internationally, he has also seen a few of the men that train with him and the girls in the dilapidated town hall get selected to join the army.
“These kinds of small wins go a long way and not to mention the visits we get from foreigners who want to see and support what we are doing. We have made headlines abroad for the right reasons and Victoria Becham wanted to come and see what we are doing,” he notes.