“Kenyans remember her quick rise to the top as the country’s most popular female boxer.
At her prime, she easily dismantled opponents, won titles and providing Kenyans an entertainment they had never seen before and many young girls dared to dream.
But just like her rise, her downfall has equally been spectacular. Those accolades and praises have now been reduced to ridicule and gossip as those who once adored her now keep away. That is the sad story of Conjestina Achieng.
Born 39 years ago in Umiru village Siaya county, Achieng’s passion for boxing grew at an early age probably from the influence of her brother who was in the national team.
She would go on to win four world titles under different weight categories, registering 17 wins including 8 KO and four draws and became a crowd darling who christened her “Hands of Stone”.
Being unemployed, Achieng, who normally earned about Sh22,000 a fight, relied on boxing to pay for her one rented room in Nairobi’s Lucky Summer estate.
She became the first African woman to hold an international title when she beat Ugandan Fiona Tugume to take the vacant WIBF middleweight title. After seven amateur bouts, “Conje” made her pro debut in 2002 which earned her product endorsements.
But then disaster struck. In January 2011, Conjestina’s father sent an appeal to Kenyans to help him take her to hospital after her behaviour deteriorated from the norm.
According to him, Conje had removed her son from school, set ablaze to all her boxing gear and disposed of all the equipment from her gymnasium, which she had opened in 2009. She was admitted at the Mathari mental hospital in Nairobi and later released.
But she never recovered and the following year, a local Tv channel showed Conje in a state of confusion and utter despair. She was said to be living in poverty having not paid her Sh2,000 rent for four months and under the care of her younger sister.
Unable to maintain the city life, Conje moved back to the village and has been in and out of hospital since then as the mental disorder persists. Her mother Gertrude Adala says it has been difficult to cope given the family is in financial difficulties.
Her father passed in 2014 after being diagnosed with Tuberculosis.
On August, Conje was denied admission to Kisumu District Hospital due to what the doctors said lack of space. Had she had the money, maybe an alternative would have been sought.
She has now been reduced to a beggar who roams the streets of Yala town with neighbours and passers-by sympathizing from a distance as others ridicule.
“When she was young, neighbours would report to me that Achieng has been beaten by some boys after she revenged a fight. That somehow made me proud. Today, she is a shadow of her former self,”said Amada, summing up Conje’s misery.
Once a champion; now living in poverty. Who is going to save Conjestina Achieng? The former boxer has sunk into oblivion.
Nowadays she is rarely in the spotlight; after making her country proud at one point in history. After several years in the boxing industry, the unsung hero developed a mental illness and could no longer continue with her boxing career and was taken to Mathari Mental Hospital and later discharged.
Conjestina then retired to the village but since then, the heroine has been reduced to a beggar, drinking cheap liquor all day to try and forget the days when she was once a huge celebrity. Conjestina is currently in Siaya, her home county.
The former queen of boxing is languishing in abject poverty. Neither the government, nor the Boxing Federation that was once so proud of her; has stepped in to afford her proper medical care.
Am kindly appealing to kenyan fraternity to chip in and help conjestina get treated. If willing you can contact conjestina’s mother gertrude adala through phone number 0725795030. Any help will be highly appreciated. #saveCONJE,” was the long but touching post jotted down by a Nairobi University student by the name HABI ERIDAFOCE from Kigali,Rwanda.
I couldn’t added more, he said it all. Are we going to allow our hypocrisy to devour Conjestina when we Kenyans can save her situation and donate enough money for her medication. It Pains Me…..it hurts.