For many years, the jua kali sector in Kenya has mainly been a male-dominated industry due to its labour intensive nature.
But in Kitengela town in Kajiado County, several women have cut their niche in this sector maintaining a stable income for their families.
Rose Mutonyi, who operates her business in the Jua Kali area in Kitengela, has called the place home since 2013.
“I came to this area looking for paraffin but a fire in me told me to ask what it would cost to have a shop here since I was a sales lady then, and I wanted to have more streams of income,” she recounts.
Having dropped out from school in class 8 due to a lack of funds to further her education, Rose took up the challenge and was employed as sales lady.
She later opened her own hardware shop in the Jua Kali area paying a monthly rent of Sh4000.
“One thing am grateful for is the ladies I found in this community. They were ready to guide and show me the ropes of trade here,” she notes.
Rose said the men as well have been very supportive of the women and the business they run and there is never a case of disrespect as many would think. “It is a very conducive environment to run one’s business,” she says.
Walking in the area, you will however notice that business is not booming as you would expect it to be.
“Business is not the best since the market has been saturated with imports. The Jua Kali sector is suffering. To be honest, the time we make great business is when children transition to high school then after that, it’s another slow season in the business but we are grateful for the decent work we are doing here,” says Mama Maina another trader in the area.
Women in the Jua Kali sector in Kitengela will be found painting jikos and boxes, handling the customers who come looking for goods as well as working in hotels.
The Jua Kali artisans in this area have a self-help group commonly known as ‘Chama’ that helps them save and when in crisis, the kitty comes in handy.
Rose who is also the treasurer of the Chama, says they decided to include the men as the boy child is being left out in matters development and it’s not right as they also have family members that need support and this is the best way they could do it.
The Jua Kali artisans are calling upon Kajiado County Government to look into their workmanship and make available tenders in the County that could help them improve their income.
By Vivian Mbinya