Every often, women and youth have always been told to stop complaining of lack of formal employment and are advised not to choose jobs but rather take up any available job to eke a living.
The KNA visited two women in Nyahururu town who have defied the odds and have immersed themselves fully into the construction industry; a job that has always been associated with men.
We meet Mary Wanjiru and Carol Wanjiru, two women who work on construction sites popularly known as ‘mjengo’ within the town and they share their story with us.
According to Mary who has been working with a trained mason as his assistant, her aim is to one day become a full time mason seeing that she has very few areas left to fine tune her skill before she fully qualifies to be a mason.
“I have been a fundi’s assistant for over two years now. I believe I am almost becoming a full-time fundi because most of the time, the fundi lets me do some of his work and he just rectifies very few areas. He approves of my work and says that I am far much better experienced compared to when I started off,” Mary said.
Carol Wanjiru on the other hand says that she cannot think of herself doing any other job apart from working in the construction industry.
Before the Covid-19 pandemic broke out, Carol was working as a casual labourer in a hotel but she tells us that she never used to make enough and the working hours were over 14 hours per day but nowadays she only works for 8 hours with Sunday being her free day.
“When I started I felt like it was not an appropriate job for me because a lot of men felt like I was going against the grain by defying societal expectations.
“But at the moment, I cannot venture into any other job because I am able to feed my children and take them to school using the proceeds from this job. Unlike when I was starting off, I am now used to it and I cannot say I get as tired as I used to before. Men nowadays however see it as a normal thing for women to work in the construction industry,” Carol said.
The duo tell us that the toil is not all that rosy because they get ridiculed a lot by fellow women and some men who believe that construction work is a preserve of the male gender.
They are however challenging those that say there are no jobs and especially women to go out there and just do any available job regardless of its nature.
“Many women will just stay at home and complain that there are no jobs. That is being lazy, they need to come out of their comfort zones and indulge in any activity that is income generating. This will be better than asking for money from their spouses every day,” said Mary.
According to Samuel Kabiru, who is the mason and trainer to Mary, she is obedient, a quick learner and she also responds positively to being corrected.
“I like working with Mary because she is obedient and unlike male assistant masons, she is always on standby and is a great time keeper.
“Women should accept any available job. It can help them increase their household incomes, by supplementing their husbands’,” Kabiru said.
According to the Quarterly Labour report by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) 2020, Kenya’s unemployment rate now stands at 10.4 percent from 5.2 percent in March same year with the employment to population ratio sliding to 57.7 percent from 64.4 per cent.
The number of the unemployed grew by 58.6 per cent to 1.8 million Kenyans from 961,666 in the first quarter of 2020.