Her determination to succeed in life is exceptional. Apart from serving individual customers, she has managed to secure good deals, including making double decker beds for Ganze Primary School and windows, grills and doors at Vitengeni Police Station in Kilifi County.
Meet Esther Karisa, a young woman from Ganze, Kilifi County who has proved the cliché ‘what a man can do, a woman can do even better.’
“Can you really do this job?” This was the most common question, Esther Karisa, says she was asked by customers during the early days of her career.
Karisa’s story began back in 2017 after completing her secondary school education. She scored a C- mean grade but gave up on her dream to become an accountant as her family was poverty afflicted.
Her mother was a single parent, with no job and could not afford to take her to college, besides, she owed Karisa’s former school a one-year fees arrears. “I was raised by my mother as my father passed away when I was in class four. My mother was a manual laborer and raising my four siblings and I was a daunting task. More challenging is the fact that I joined form I alongside my brother. We studied form one and two but in form three, my mother was unable to pay our school fees and so one of us had to drop out to enable the other to continue with education. And so, my brother dropped out of school,” she narrated.
In order to get her Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) Certificate, Karisa was forced to do manual jobs whose little earnings she saved and cleared the fees.
“I managed to clear fees debt, collected my certificates and returned home with no hopes I would join college,” she went on.
Two years later, she got an opportunity at Kenya Youth Employment Opportunities Project (KYEOP) that sponsored three courses; mechanic, wiring and welding. She applied and fortunately got a welding course.
“During the training, I saved the facilitation money that was being provided by KYEOP and bought my first welding machine. I then worked with my cousin in his workshop for several months following which I saved enough money and opened a workshop, which I named Welded Wonders,’’ she added.
She says her first born brother who had ventured into the same business motivated her to join the males’ field.
“After joining, I told him about it. He said okay, fine, as long as you love the job wholeheartedly, just struggle, you will make it and I thank God right now I can see I have made it,” she said confidently.
Customers, she added, also became a major motivation to her success as they heaped praises on her.
“They were awed with my boldness and even paid more to promote my business,’’ she said.
Of concern, she disclosed, people in her home village hesitated to contract her as they believed only men could do that kind of work.
“With time, the villagers got some confidence that even women in Kilifi can also weld metals,” she said smiling humbly.
She says the venture has enabled her to meet personal basic needs, supports her family and she is saving money to enable her enroll for an Accountancy Course on part time.
“When I returned home to Ganze, people didn’t believe I could do this work. When they saw me continuing well, they said let’s try and see if she can. So, they started hiring me. After I performed to their expectations, they started encouraging others to try me and now customers keep on coming,” she explained, adding people bring motorcycles, generators, vehicles and metals to be fixed and are happy with her services.
Against all odds, Karisa works closely with other welders who she contracts when she could not cope with the huge workload, amidst tight deadlines within which to deliver on given tasks.
Her fellow welders have been admiring her ability and she says they enjoy working with her.
“When I contract them, they respond well, follow instructions and work with unity,’’ she says.
During the interview, Karisa was alongside Mwagona Mwakwekwe, a welder from Marere village, Kilifi County, whom she had contracted to make doors and a gate.
Mwakwewe described her as a very hard-working woman who endured harsh working conditions that even some men were not able to.
“Esther works even harder than men. She is dedicated, she pushes herself and perseveres a lot,” Mwakwewe explained.
Mwakwekwe pleaded with the government to recognize such exceptional women and award them tenders so that they can develop themselves and become role models to other women.
Karisa advised the youth to stop being choosy and take up opportunities they get academic qualification notwithstanding.
“Completing form four or university studies does not mean one cannot do manual work, but can be a good stepping stone to achieve what one wants to do in life,” she remarks.
By Jackson Msanzu