New photographs that depict members of the Sierra Leone Women’s Boxing Team have been adding to an exhibition at the International Slavery Museum.
With a dream of one day fighting for Gold in the Olympic Games, the women have to first overcome the barriers of living in one of the world’s poorest countries, before they even think about competing in the ring.
For the first time in the history of the Olympic Games, women’s boxing will be part of the London 2012 tournament.
The Sierra Leone team longed to take part, but a lack of funding and sponsorship prevented them from attending the preliminary qualifying rounds in Africa. All they can hope for now is a chance to try for the next Olympic Games in 2016.
On display until Sunday 3 June 2012 the new images are a new addition to the exhibition ’42’ Women of Sierra Leone, a collection of moving and powerful work by freelance photojournalist Lee Karen Stow. The exhibition documents women and their daily lives at home, at work and with their families.
The eight new images, also by Lee Karen Stow, include two which have been taken from a series of photographs called Fighting for Gold, a project documenting the Women’s Boxing Team of Sierra Leone. The remaining six form part of the continuing project, ‘42’.
Lee Karen Stow says: "In the Western world it’s easy to take basic food, medical care and clean water for granted. However for the women of Sierra Leone, having these things is a luxury, so aspiring athletes are at a disadvantage before they enter the ring.
"Meat is too expensive so they don’t have protein in their diets. They can train for weeks to get fit but then get bitten by a mosquito and contract malaria. The cost of health care is so high they literally can’t afford to hurt themselves, so the passion they may feel for the sport can’t be expressed.
"My aim for the exhibition is to show that these women, and women in similar circumstances, should be given the right to live, not die and follow their dreams and ambitions without being held back."
For over thirty years Freetown, Sierra Leone has been twinned with Stow’s birthplace of Kingston-upon-Hull, UK to foster cultural understanding and friendships. In 2007 on a visit to teach photography to a group of women in Freetown, Lee Karen Stow saw first hand how difficult life is and discovered that the life expectancy for women at this time was just 42.
About to turn 42 herself, this led Stow into a project that documented these women’s lives. Stow’s life expectancy, as a white woman living in the West, was almost double at 83.This comparison angered Stow and compelled her to question this gross imbalance and violation of human rights.
During the period of transatlantic slavery, Bunce Island in Sierra Leone was of one of the largest slave forts on the Rice Coast of West Africa.
By the late 18th century, as the abolition of slavery approached, Sierra Leone was chosen as a location for a new colony of former slaves and the capital of Freetown was founded.
Ten years ago, in January 2002, Sierra Leone emerged from an 11 year civil war during which many of its citizens had been killed, maimed, raped and displaced.
Despite improvements in infrastructure, overseas aid and investment, the country suffers from abject poverty and high unemployment.