Women in Laikipia and Nyandarua Counties have decided to bash social stereotypes in an effort to make ends meet. They boldly challenge the notion that boda boda business is a preserve for men. In Nayahururu town, women riders can be spotted transporting customers and ferrying goods all in a day’s work.
We meet Ms Josephine Mwangi waiting for clients at one of the town’s busiest stage. She has been in the business for three years now
From a distance, it is impossible to tell that there could be a woman rider among the many boda boda riders at the parking lot.
“I have taken up this job because I believe that no work is meant for a specific gender. At first I experienced a lot of discrimination because of my gender but my determination kept me going,” says Josephine. She adds:
“I would go hungry with my children due to lack of food as I struggled to do manual labour as a construction worker. Being a single parent and the sole breadwinner of my family I could not watch my children sleeping hungry I decided to take up the job.”
Josephine underwent defensive rider training in town. Once certified, she began leasing motorbikes at a cost of Sh300 per day.
“I would often met women who discourage me from riding motorbikes. They advised me to venture into feminine businesses such as selling of vegetables. I couldn’t afford to heed their advice because I need to put food on the table for my children. Therefore I remained adamant and focused with my job.”
Causing an accident
Josephine had to face a lot of prejudice and bias from clients as well. Men for instance weren’t confident in her ability to ride the boda boda without causing an accident. They often declined riding with her.
“Boda boda business is just like any other business and can be done by anybody whether a man or a woman and all can be successful.
“God willing, I might be moving into taxi by the end of this year or early next year because I feel I have saved a substantial amount of money that I want to use to buy the vehicle,” she says.
Ms. Mercy Njeri another rider who has broken into the male-dominated sector says the business has opened her eyes to a wealth of opportunities.
“I never thought it unusual, but I knew eyebrows would be raised. I did not even tell my mother I wanted to be a boda boda rider because she would have been against it. She found out months later," says the mother of three.
However, she agrees with Josephine that it hasn’t been a walk in the park.
“Every day I am reminded of my gender. Sometimes men pass demeaning comments but that doesn’t deter me. I am in this business for my children. Despite this harassment, I still want to do this. Each day, I get stronger and stronger,” she says.
Mercy challenges women in the country to take-up the so-called male dominated jobs and flourish.
"It is high time that women stand up and become self-reliant by taking up jobs that are considered to be for men alone. It is unfortunate that most women in the country are afraid to take up male dominated jobs as they cannot stand the pressure of working with men, and they are only clamouring for other jobs which are not sufficient."
Ms Josephine Wakarima, famously known by her customers as Bibye Maina, says that even after obtaining her license, it was still not a smooth ride for her.
“I was certified with categories B and C that allows me to handle light vehicles. Still, it was difficult to win the confidence of customers. I would however urge them to trust me and to give me a chance to prove myself. They would then be the judges after they had experienced it first-hand,” she explains.
She states that her work has made her grow a lot in life, basing the fact that she has a family that depended on her.
“At times it gets tough but I keep pressing on. I have joined fellow boda boda riders to form a small savings group which boosts me financially,” reveals Ms Wakarima.
According to the chairperson of the boda boda association in Nyahururu town, Mr John Theiru, support is given to women riders to enable them lease motorbikes from owners.
"I make sure that they pay the Sh300 daily payouts and also that they remit their daily contribution to the Sacco," says Mr Theiru.
These women now want the government to support them by implementing a program similar to the youth fund.
They are calling upon other women to join them as it is like any other job done. Bringing about the perception of what a man can do a woman can do as well.
Last month CS Joe Mucheru called upon women to join the robust boda boda sector that was commanding Sh317 billion, turnover each year.
The CS who spoke in Ol Kalou town Nyandarua County said grouping the riders will ensure sustainable development.