The overall unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 12.7 per cent, according to statistics from Federation of Kenya Employers (FKE).
It is also estimated that over 1 million young people enter the labour market annually devoid of any skills after having either dropped out of school or completed school and not enrolled in any college.
This acute shortage of job opportunities for young people in Kenya has in the long run not only pushed hundreds of young people into self-employed ventures where they can eke a living but also forced others to take roles which to say the least were once viewed almost as a taboo in the society due to societal stereotypes. And Sarah Wanjiku falls into the second category.
When we met her at her garage located near Batian hotel in Nyeri town, Wanjiku, who has just marked her 20th birthday, was in her customary blue working overalls, black sports shoes and a black cap ready to undertake her routine duties.
She was born in Nyeri and in a family of five children and later attended Temple Road primary school before joining Riamukurwe Secondary school where she completed her studies in 2019.
Wanjiku however says it was during her childhood days that she developed a liking for the automotive industry, a passion which was to shape her career path in life.
“Immediately after I completed my high school studies in 2019, I embarked on training as a mechanic specializing in electrical wiring. It took me two years to gain the required skills,” narrates Wanjiku.
Unlike other women who are often shy to take such jobs due to societal prejudice, Wanjiku says she was lucky since her family has always stood by her side urging her to follow her heart, especially her mother who has always cheered her onwards.
“I no longer depend on my family financially since I started this job. I have also been able to rent my own house and cater for my personal needs. Above all I am happy since most of the customers appreciate my work despite the fact that I am a woman,” she added.
She narrates that the major challenge one faces in this occupation is that in the process of repairing a customer’s vehicle one may damage it by mistake.
“Despite being an expert in this career we still find ourselves making some mistakes. That’s why it’s critical to keep on learning and unlearning for you to keep improving,” she adds.
Martin Ngari, who is Wanjiku’s coworker, describes her as a hardworking lady who at times performs better than some of the male colleagues.
He heaps praises on her for her professionalism and high sense of discipline at work, adding that in their chosen career, one needs to be confident.
“She is committed to her work and has so far yielded good results. I never get complaints from customers and whenever I am not around, she handles everything well. Everyone can do this job irrespective of gender,” says Simon Ndung’u her boss.
Wanjiku encourages the youths especially the young ladies to venture into the motor vehicle repair field or any other field that has been traditionally male dominated.
She is one person who believes in herself and is always prepared for whatever may come her way.
By Samuel Maina and Daisy King’ori