Agnes Ajok is the only female member of Okere Boxing Club. Her passion for kickboxing and taekwondo dates back to 2015 when she was introduced to the sport at the age of 15years when she was in Primary Six. She was a member of a boxing club in Patongo, a Trading Centre 20KMs away from Okere village. Unfortunately, for Ajok, an early pregnancy at the age of 16years when she was in Primary Seven meant that both her education and boxing pursuits had been destroyed. Thanks to the management of her Acane Primary School, Ajok was allowed to sit for her exams even when she was 8.5months pregnant. She got 28/36 aggregates — not bad for a pregnant teenager in a deplorable UPE school.
Now a single mother of a 3years’ old son, Ajok has been surviving between a rock and a hard place. She struggles to heck a living from small-scale farming albeit with significant challenges especially pertaining to access to land, the most significant factor of production in a rural economy. Ajok is one of the three girls/women in a large family of boys/men. As such, she hasn’t been afforded her natural right to inherit family land from which to farm from. She now has to hire land from which she farms from every season. “I basically farm to pay back the land I rent” Ajok said. “The problem is further exacerbated by climatic changes which has reduced on farm yields in the recent past” she reiterated with a slow and shaky voice.
Too difficult is life that Ajok is on the brink of giving up. Even when she had heard about a training opportunity at Okere Boxing Club, she was adamant to participate. “I mean I have trained in kickboxing and taekwondo for one year in the past but I cannot point out any benefit it has had in regard to elevating my standard of living and wellbeing” Ajok told me. In fact, it took a painstaking effort by one of Okere Boxing Club coaches to endear Ajok to join the club which she slowly did. A decision she doesn’t regret. “It’s been a therapeutic, healing and emotional but also challenging sessions of training these past two weeks” Ajok reflected. “It feels good to be doing something that’s naturally matched to my heart” she said about her love for kickboxing and taekwondo.
But just being passionate about kickboxing isn’t a bed of roses for Ajok. During training sessions, she is mocked. People directly say to her, “why is this woman is training to be a kickboxer?” “Maybe she wants to be able to beat up the boy who impregnated her and ran away or her future husband” another would heckle. Again, there are specific challenges related to the trainers or the physical pains and injuries. “For instance, I once got kicked in my breast and I felt uncomfortable to share it with the male trainer” she said. “I even do not have a female colleague to share our specific challenges with” Ajok emphasized. Additionally, since there aren’t other female members in the club, Ajok is often paid with male trainees which is oftentime faced with a backlash from the male counterparts. “Some men think if I am paired with them, it means they are weak” she said.
But Ajok’s mind is already made up to continue with the training to perfect her skills. “I will do my best and my hope this time is that my hard work and efforts will be paid back” Ajok said. I also hope that you do play your part to make sure that my hopes and expectations in Okere Boxing Club and what it will do to my life better will not be thwarted” she requested.
Working to make sure that Ajok’s hopes and expectations are filled is what we hope to achieved with Okere Boxing Club. This needs any kind of support and we do hope that our readers will do whatever they can (however small) to support this dream.