Characters: Burqa boxers weaves the stories of these warriors, Razia Shabnam, Ajmira Khatoon, Taslima Khatoon and Parveen Sajda as they negotiate poverty and tradition and learn to face the biggest obstacle in their paths, fear.
My father supported me. He used to tell me to keep my eyes on the goal and not worry about the circuitous path needed to reach it.
"Why won't I go to the Olympics? Everyone learns. You fail once, twice, three time, then you learn."
Razia Shabnam is one of the first Indian women to become a boxing coach and an international referee. She grew up in Kiddirpur in a traditional Muslim family in which girls stayed at home and were groomed for marriage. But her father, Rahat Ali Khan, was different. He encouraged all his children, including his daughter to play sports and be physically fit. “When I started out, people used to treat me like I was doing something dirty” Shabnam remembers, “But at the time my father supported me. He'd tell me to keep my eyes on the goal and not worry about the circuitous path needed to reach it.” Shabnam coaches with the intention that her protégés, especially girls, make something of their lives, learn to respect themselves.
Ajmira Khatoon, sixteen, started boxing when she was twelve years old. Her family, especially her father and older brother do not approve of her athletic aspirations, or of any aspirations a girl might have. But despite the fights at home and the beatings, Ajmira is undeterred, she dreams of becoming a boxing champion and competing at the Olympics and winning a medal while her mother and younger sister watch her on TV. "Why won't I go to the Olympics? Everyone learns. You fail once, twice, three time, then you learn."
"I am a girl, anyone can take me any time, and rape me. It's true, I am a boxer and I can fight. But if there are many people attacking me, how will I manage?"
Taslima Khatoon, sixteen, lives at a shelter for at risk youth called Shoma Home, provided by New Light, an NGO working to rehabilitate children of sex workers. She was found wandering the street in the red light area of Kalighat, when an outreach staff at New Light took her in. She was eight years old at the time. Acutely aware of the gender divide and its worst manifestations, "I am a girl, anyone can take me any time, and rape me. It's true, I am a boxer and I can fight. But if there are many people attacking me, how will I manage?" Taslima is slowly learning to deal with fear as she grows into a young woman.
“I am telling you my story. There was time when we didn’t have enough to eat.
Parveen Sajda started boxing with the hope of getting a job through the government quota reserved for athletes. Her dream was to join the police. But despite winning several state championships and attending national level camps, the lack of job quota for women boxers in Bengal and poverty forced her to quit. “I am telling you my story. There was time when we didn’t have enough to eat. I would drink rice starch in the morning before going for practice and there would be no food when I came back.” Her parents would rather have her married, but Shabnam advises her to join back so she can compete again and be eligible for her dream job.