A conversation with Mary Kom
From Olympic boxer to role model for women everywhere, India’s Mary Kom has opened her First Female Fight Club to teach self-defence and spread a message of gender equality. We speak to her about her journey so far, and her revolution in confidence and empowerment.
Tell us about yourself.
I grew up in the Churachandpur district and spent much of my childhood excelling at sports. As soon as I was old enough, I moved to Imphal and devoted myself to women’s boxing in preparation for Imphal’s National Games. In 2005, the Government of Manipur gifted me residence at the National Games Village, where I now live with my family while running my Boxing Academy.
Tell us about your journey to the boxing ring.
When I first started, I was a laughing stock as people thought boxing was a sport for boys. Then when I got married, I was again the topic of conversation as the whole village discussed the ‘end of my glory’. After having my children, people again began to say that I would never be seen in the ring. I overcame all these obstacles.
What has been the greatest moment of your career so far?
Standing in the Olympic stadium at the London Games 2012.
What is life like for women in India?
Unpredictable. When it comes to gender equality, India is behind so many other countries. We need to overcome gender discrimination, female infanticide, and we need to promote humanity.
What are your hopes for women in India?
I’m very positive about the future of women in India. I can’t personally intervene to make women stronger and more confident – this has to come from within – but I can say that we women can do just as much as men.
Why did you decide to open the first ever Female Fight Club in India?
I’m not promising that women will be safe because of my Female Fight Club, but at least I can teach them to protect themselves. It was great spending time with the girls and passing on my knowledge.
In what way does self-defence make you more confident?
It keeps you physically and mentally fit, and boosts your self-esteem. When you have the right skills you feel confident.
Where do you see your Female Fight Club going?
I hope it will become one of the most celebrated clubs, with practical and experience-based training, but it needs to be mobilised so that people all over are aware of its positive impact. This is why I’m collaborating with other self-defence clubs in different parts of India. I hope the initiative helps to curb crime in our country.
What role does technology play in your ambition?
Technology allows my message to reach as many women in India as possible, and hopefully women all over the world. Without technology, this dream would be impossible. Fans will be able to use my app on their phones and get self-defence tips wherever they are, whenever they want.