'I'm a Muslim Woman, I'm Visually-impaired & I'm a Boxer'

Fit, strong, and with a steely determination behind her eyes, Sannah Hussain has many of the traits you need to be successful in the boxing ring.

But she is very different to your average amateur boxer.

Sannah is a Scottish Muslim who wears a headscarf and dresses modestly and also lives with a series of debilitating health conditions. The 25-year-old was born with Albinism, a condition which affects the colour of her hair, the pigment in her skin and has caused a serious visual impairment. She also has an autoimmune condition, called Myasthenia Gravis, which causes muscle weakness and fatigue.

But the Glasgow-based charity worker is adamant her health conditions will not prevent her from stepping into the ring for her first exhibition fight this weekend.

"I've always been an active person regardless of my vision, regardless of my muscles," she told BBC Scotland. "I've always been a go-getter, I've always wanted to be up and about, doing things."

Her passion for the sport developed after she set up a class for women from minority groups as part of her job with the Human Appeal charity earlier this year.

She wanted to provide safe, friendly, and empowering fitness sessions for women who might normally wear the hijab.

The Saturday morning sessions at the Kynoch Boxing gym in Glasgow's Kinning Park have been popular with women uneasy in a "normal" Lycra-dominant gym environment.

"We arranged to have the gym closed off to anybody else at that time of day, so the girls could come in, take their hijabs off and feel comfortable with what they're wearing and focus purely on the working out and not feel self-conscious," Sannah said. "It's really helped break that barrier that women can't do this, or women of this community can't do this because they certainly can. Like everything in life, it's just about finding a way around the things that are challenging."

But the project has had an unexpected effect on Sannah herself.

"I didn't realise how much I would fall in love with it," she said. "Even though it makes me tired and sometimes sick of being here, overall I love doing something that makes me feel independent. This isn't about being part of a team, it's about what you put into it is what you'll get out of it. Although I may never be as successful as other people, I can certainly see an improvement in myself, in my own happiness."

Sannah says she has lost weight, gained confidence and seen her overall fitness improve since setting up the classes in February. It's been a remarkable journey for a woman whose sight is so bad she struggles to catch the right bus or train because she can't see the signs. Her ability to see detail or read small writing is limited and it took her an additional two years to complete her degree. And she takes strong daily medication for a muscle condition which can cause extreme fatigue in her arms and legs, and even slurred speech.



Nichola Rutherford


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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Muslim World Today.

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