News / Africa

Kickboxing in S. Sudan: It's Different for Girls

Winnie Natasha (R) delivers a targeted kick during training with the Triple A Kickboxing team in Juba.
Winnie Natasha (R) delivers a targeted kick during training with the Triple A Kickboxing team in Juba.
Anthony Mogga
— Winnie Natasha has played sports for as long as she can remember.

The 21-year-old law student participated in girls’ football and basketball leagues when she was growing up in Khartoum, and today is one of just two girls among some 300 members of a kick-boxing club in Juba, where her family returned to live three years ago.

She joined the kickboxing club six months ago after seeing an ad for it on television. When she went along for her first training session, she ended up being the only girl among dozens of men and boys practising kicks and throwing targeted punches.

But she kept on going to the club in spite of her minority status and strong objections from her family and friends.

"My parents, my friends say, ‘Are you serious? You want kickboxing? What is the problem? You're a girl!’ And I say, ‘Kickboxing is not a problem. It is just a sport,'" Natasha said.
We want more girls to join us as kickboxers for South Sudan.

The South Sudan Kickboxing Association is, in fact, more than just a sport: it was founded in 2008 by Puro Okelo Obe, who wanted to use kickboxing to overcome the tribal differences that continue to wrack South Sudan  and often escalate into violence.

Obe never expected women to participate, but when Natasha and 27-year-old Adut Bol began attending training sessions, he welcomed them with open arms. His behavior toward the girls was in sharp contrast to that of most people in South Sudan, who think it's wrong for girls to participate in any sport, let alone kickboxing.

"Our people are thinking once you practice sport, you lose so many things," he said.

"You lose respect. They think you are going to be violent, that a girl will probably not be a good girl."

Part of what drives Natasha as she trains is the desire to show that these stereotypes are not true. She also wants to encourage more women to participate in the sport.

"I hope we can be good ambassadors of kickboxing and I wish for South Sudan to grow in kickboxing," she said.

"We are only two in kickboxing and that is not good, so we want to encourage more girls to join us as kickboxers for South Sudan."

She's about to succeed in that mission: Josephine Samuel, 20, was so impressed after seeing Natasha and Bol kickbox in club tournaments in Juba that she and three of her friends started to come along and watch training sessions.

Now, Samuel and her friends are ready to join in and try the rough-and-tumble sport themselves and Samuel has a dream of becoming "like Natasha and Bol" and getting good enough at kickboxing to be able to travel abroad, to places like Uganda and  Ethiopia to compete, she said.

You May Like

Video China Investigates Powerful Former Security Chief

Analysts say move by President Xi is an effort to win more party support, take step toward economic reforms, removing those who would stand in way of change More

South Africa Land Reforms Still Contentious 20 Years Later

Activists argue that the pace of land reform is slow and biased; legal experts question how some proposed reforms would be implemented More

In Vietnam, Religious Freedoms Violated, UN Finds

Beliefs reportedly prompt heavy surveillance, intimidation and travel restrictions More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelteri
X
Scott Bobb
July 30, 2014 8:16 PM
Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video A Summer Camp for All the World

VIDEO: During workshops and social gatherings, the Global Youth Village summer camp encourages young people to cooperate and embrace their differences, while learning to communicate with people from other countries. VOA's Deborah Block has more.
Video

Video From Cantankerous Warlock to Incorruptible Priest, 'Harry Potter' Actor Embraces Diverse Roles

He’s perhaps best known as Mad Eye Moody, the whimsical wizard in the Harry Potter franchise. But character actor Brendan Gleeson's resume includes dozens of films, and he embraces all the characters he inhabits with equal passion. In an interview with VOA’s Penelope Poulou, Gleeson discussed his new drama "Calvary" and his secret to success.

AppleAndroid