In 2007 it was voted one of the 16 most innovative sports programs in the world by the Web-based global association of social entrepreneurs, Changemakers. It also won funding from Strengthening Girls!, a German government project aimed at encouraging girls and women to become more assertive through sport, especially in activities traditionally dominated by men, such as rugby, football, rock climbing and capoeira, a game that combines martial arts and dancing.
"Our mission here is not just to create excellent boxers," says Boxgirls founder Heather Cameron. "It is to help girls and women become more self-confident and start taking the initiative in their own lives.
In August 2008, a report by the University of Cologne's Gender Research Department lauded Boxgirls for the "opportunity it afforded girls to improve their ability to take charge of their own lives" and develop greater self esteem.
Personally, I am not a huge fan of boxing. True, Agincourt and I both enjoy The Contender because it showcases not only the sport, but also the motivations behind the sport. I appreciate the use of sport as empowerment so of course I find myself giving high praise for the Boxgirls program in Berlin. Not only is it allowing the use of sport as empowerment, but it is allowing girls and women access to that strength.
"There has been huge resistance to women's amateur boxing pretty much everywhere," says Cameron. "One problem is the sharing of resources. Opponents say why should we spend our limited funds on the girls when, let's be honest, they are not as good as the boys and they are not allowed to compete at the Olympics."
It is no small understatement to say that I loathe how women can be denied sporting opportunities simply based on ill conceived gender limitations. Would I want a daughter of mine (not that I have one, mind you) boxing against a boy her age? Of course not. However, if she wanted to box I most certainly would like to know that she could against other equal competitors.
Cameron sees boxing not just as a way of improving the quality of women's lives, both mentally and physically, but also as an agent for social change. She recently set up another branch of Boxgirls in Nairobi, Kenya, where she hopes women will also use self-confidence won through boxing to "take on leadership roles in their communities." Over time Cameron says she would like to establish a network of such clubs around the globe.
"I want to create places where women are taken seriously as athletes and where they lead by example."