Indian Olympic Boxing Champion Starts A Self-Defence Club For Women


If you are a female who lives in a country where you can safely walk down a street, night or day, and not live in fear of being attacked then you can count your blessings. It is definitely something we take for granted, because it is easy to forget there are women in the world who live quite the opposite every day.

India is a country where there have been so many horrible reports about rapes, honor killings, and attacks on women, and while it is great the international media is paying attention, it needs to stop.

There have been campaigns by organizations who want domestic violence to stop, and notable Bollywood celebrities speaking out in favor of women being abused.

Well now there is another woman to add to the growing list of people in India who are empowering its female citizens. Her name is Mary Kom, 30 and she is a champion boxer. If the name sounds familiar, it’s because she won the bronze medal for the women’s pinweight boxing at the London Olympics in 2012, and she is also a five-times world boxing champion.

She started boxing at a young age in the small town of Manipur where she grew up. The town is closer to Burma, which is why she looks more Asian than Indian, and has experienced some racism because of this. Her family were mostly poor and couldn’t afford to give her much of a future. But Mary decided to make her own way in life and became interested in the sport of boxing after watching Manipuri boxer called Dingko Singh win gold at the Asian Games.

She opened her own boxing gym in 2006 called MC Mary Kom Boxing Academy where she teaches 40 disadvantaged children structure, education and order. After winning the bronze medal in London, 2012, it opened up a world of opportunities she didn’t have before, which also enabled her to become a major empowerment figure in her community.


Mary was chosen to be part of a new initiative by Vodafone called “Firsts” where they help people who are wanting to create inspirational firsts in their community. With the help of the telecom giant, Mary has now set-up the very first women-only self-defence camp and an SMS service to provide safety tips for women across India.

“Women are scared to walk in public on their own in India,” she tells the Guardian in an interview “And after what happened [with the gang rape] in Delhi, more women are wanting to box and do self-defence.”

She’s also developing a smartphone app with advice that gives security and self-defence tips, as well as access to a forum and women’s helpline numbers.

The reason for wanting to do this is pretty simple, and also important.

“I want every woman to have the chance to learn self-defence and experience equality. In a place where women are considered inferior, we have to empower ourselves. I want to help women learn to defend themselves and be confident, instead of living in fear.”

Mary says she faced a sex-attack herself when she was 18, but managed to fight off the perpetrator thanks to her boxing experience, which she can see will help many other women in the same situation.”I was going to church on a Sunday. I was wearing a traditional wraparound dress and took a rickshaw as I was a bit late. Suddenly, the rickshaw puller caught my hand and tried to molest me,” she said at a conference recently.

“I managed to flatten him because I was fit and strong. But that incident taught me a lesson that as a woman, I have to be very alert all the time and must have courage (to fight the odds),” she said.

Mary truly is an inspiration for women in India, but also women elsewhere in the world. She has shown that no matter what her personal successes and achievements are in life, her true calling is to use that to empower other women. She has a lot to be proud of, but her work isn’t done yet.The mother of twins is also currently training for the 2016 Olympics in Rio. Perhaps this time she will get that elusive gold medal? her extraordinary life story is being made into a Bollywood film, with the starring role played by Priyanka Chopra. We cannot wait to see that film! Mary also published an autobiography last year called Unbreakable, where you can read more about her incredible (incredibly busy!) life.

In the meantime we are stoked to see women on the ground in India working toward change and equipping her fellow female citizens with the tools to protect themselves. We hope her story will inspire many more of you to use your lives as a tool for change in your community.

Check out the Vodafone video on Mary’s new self-defence camp below.

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