What it means to be a female boxer in Tanzania

Saturday September 04 2021
Boxer pic

Feriche (left) and Kenya’s Awino exchange blows in 2018 in a bout which Feriche won. PHOTO | COURTESY.

By Diana Elinam
By Nahida Esmail

Feriche Mashauri - a.k.a. ‘Boyka’ - is a Tanzanian lightweight professional boxer in the 57kg to 62kg championship category.

The 25-year old mother of one has fought 14 fights, ten of which she won. She is the only female boxer in Tanzania to have won the Eastern and Central African Boxing Champion Belt.

Feriche - who is the first-born in a family of six children - says “We had the best childhood. My parents brought us up with love, care and guidance. The only challenge my parents faced was school cases of my being naughty. I managed to study up to Form Four, after which my parents could not afford paying for my advanced education. So I travelled to Dar es Salaam to seek greener pastures”.

The Dodoma-born young lady developed interest in boxing following the boxing shows she used to watch on TV. She would mimic what the boxers were doing, recording herself. At around age-18, Feriche would randomly record herself throwing punches in the air and kicking out.

While in Dar es Salaam, at the age of 19, Feriche’s neighbour, Pendo Njau - who is a kick boxer - saw some of the videos that Feriche had recorded. Pendo asked Feriche if she was interested in being a boxer, to which she frankly admitted.

Pendo told her that boxing was a great sport and a good career that could enable her to earn good pay and a decent living.

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Eventually, Pendo took Feriche to a gym where she could start training. She first took her to the Japhet Kaseba Gym in Mwananyamala. Kaseba is a professional male boxer. She thereafter took her to the Chakwame Gym in Mburahati.

In December 2015, Feriche started training at 80kgs for her first match. She fondly recalls how her mentor, Pendo, encouraged her, telling her it was important to win her very first match - stressing that this would define her way into the ‘World of Boxing.’

Feriche managed to drop 18kgs after eight months of training - and, eventually, fought and won her first match in 2016.


Winning the first match

“For the first match, I took on Husna Zamba. I was really scared, but effectively suppressed my fear. My team encouraged me a lot,” says Feriche, adding: “This sport is different from other sports. It is scary but I had fallen in love with it and so I gave it my all. I am glad I didn’t get hurt - and, I think, even if I was hurt, I never felt it because I was overjoyed.”

As her mentor Pendo had told her, Feriche’s first victory did indeed pave the way forward for her. Six years in the boxing stakes - and Feriche has fought in 14 matches, decidedly winning 10 of them, some with reputable championship titles.

When Woman asked Feriche what her parents’ reaction was when she joined the boxing arena, this is what she said. “I didn’t tell them, as boxing was not considered a sport for women. They found out during my third fight, which was broadcast live on TV. They were very much worried. I sat down with them and explained that boxing was something that I enjoyed - and that it was a career like any other. They gave me their blessings at the end of the day.”

Feriche says when she started, there were a few women in boxing. “People always thought that it would affect you as a woman as you can get punched in the tummy and this may cause problems conceiving. But today, I have a beautiful three-month-old daughter. I will wait for a few months before getting back in the ring to keep my title.”

Feriche has fought many matches but she says fighting Kenya’s professional boxer, Joyce Awino in 2018 and emerging victorious was an unforgettable and record-breaking moment. She earned two stars and became the 14th best female boxer in the world. Feriche says this brought honour to her and the title of the boxer champion in Eastern and Central Africa.

Her 2017 match against Happy Daudi, a fellow Tanzanian whom she defeated is another memorable moment. During the match, she had the opportunity to meet the then minister of sports, Harrison Mwakyembe, which to her is also unforgettable.

Feriche says she will never forget one of her biggest losses, which still hurts to-date. This was her first loss and it took place in England in September 2018. It was a match where she fought Nina Bradley in the Vacant Commonwealth Female Super Light title.

Even though Feriche played her best, her opponent, Nina Bradley won. Feriche had hoped to return back home with the belt and says when she thinks about it, she gets encouraged to work harder so she can win an international title in future.


Facing challenges head on

Like is the case with any other profession, it is not all gold and glitter for boxing. As a boxer, Feriche faces a number of challenges. She points out that there are times when she signs a contract, plays a match wholeheartedly and gets paid peanuts at the end of the day and sometimes nothing at all.

According to her, this happens to a lot of boxers but it is not spoken about often because anyone who is courageous to do so gets blacklisted.

Despite the challenges, Feriche pushes on. To her, boxing is a career that keeps her and her family afloat. She has extended boxing to other young girls and is now a trainer herself.

Her younger sister, Jessica Mfinanga, has joined the boxing arena and is doing well. Feriche has four other young ladies on her team of trainees. She has been encouraging them and believes they will become successful one day.

“If there are girls out there who love boxing, please come and fight. Do not listen to people who say boxing is not for women. I have played in and out of Tanzania and I am still healthy, with no scars. I also gave birth to a healthy baby girl. So girls, do not listen to the grapevine, come meet us professional boxers and we will support you to reach victory,” Feriche says - adding that boxing pays, and has changed her life. She has bought land and takes care of her family, thanks to the sport - which has also brought her honour and respect.

Through boxing, she has had the opportunity to rub shoulders with some of this country’s top leaders. She says if it were not for the sport, she might not have been able to walk into parliament in 2019 to be honoured for her championship.

Although Feriche has dropped from position 14 worldwide to 31st, she is hopeful to get to the top in the near future.

She is currently training hard to get there. In fact she is aiming for the number one position. She aims - and is working hard at - bringing the international title to Tanzania.

The ambitious young woman appeals to boxing enthusiasts and well wishers to support her. She believes she will go far in boxing if she gets a proper management to invest in her.

Feriche says it takes hard work and patience to be successful in the sport. For her, the future is bright - and only the sky is the limit.