What you need to know:
- Ms Asibwa, a single parent of two, has been in boda boda taxi business for four years.
- She ferries people within the Central Business District and its environs sometimes exposing herself to criminals.
- Most of the male customers feel she is in a misplaced job. Her male boda boda colleagues think so too.
- Her relatives married her off at 16 years to a 30-year-old man.
Ms Faith Asibwa stands out from the five boda boda taxi operators. They are beckoning customers at GPO stage on Kenyatta Avenue, Nairobi County.
White earphones hang from a headscarf wrapped around her neck. She is wearing a spring green blazer over a warm black jacket and on her head is a black cap protecting her baby-locks from dust and direct sunlight.
As the 28-year-old prepares for the interview, a male traffic police officer passes by and waves at her saying “corona!”
“I am observing the anti-Covid-19 rules,” she responds.
This year marks four years since Ms Asibwa, a single parent of two, rode into boda boda taxi business.
She has been ferrying people within the Central Business District and its environs sometimes exposing herself to criminals.
Recently, at about 5pm, two men asked her to transport them to Eastleigh but she instinctively declined. Her male colleague preferred to ferry them only for them to attack and rob him en-route.
“Some customers are cunning. They promise to pay the fare on arrival. Then they disembark and excuse themselves in pretext of getting lose cash. You won’t see them again, they disappear. Or they send the fare via Mpesa then reverse the money,” Ms Asibwa speaks of her challenges.
The jovial Ms Asibwa has, however, learnt to deal with such con customers. She asks her customers to pay beforehand. Other times, she simply heeds to her intuition and dismisses them.
Sex for money
She says, most of the male customers feel she is in a misplaced job. Her male boda boda colleagues think so too. Their options are neither worthy.
The male customers toss sex-for-money alternative.
“They tell me I am too beautiful to ride a boda boda. They try to seduce me into having sexual relations in exchange for money,” says Ms Asibwa who lives with her children in Kibra.
“It really annoys me and I tell them off. I make it clear to them that I am not a prostitute and I am only doing a legit business just like the boda boda men,” she adds.
The boda boda men have a choice for her too.
Once in a while when they compete for customers, they remind her of her place.
“They tell me that I should find a man to take care of me. That only foolish women like me can do a man’s job. But I ignore them because this is my work whether they like it or not,” she says.
She got into boda boda business out of desperation for financial independence.
She would not proceed to high school even after scoring 279 marks out of the possible 500 in her Kenya Certificate of Primary Education(KCPE),due to lack of school fees.
Her father was a cancer patient while her mother, a farm labourer.
Her relatives married her off at 16 years to a 30-year-old man. This is after her mother became a drunkard out of depression from the social and economic pressure of taking care of her ailing father.
The man later became abusive and she opted out. She is now single-handedly taking care of her seven-year-old son and five-year-old daughter.
“He could give me Sh200 and demand for a breakdown on expenditure every time I requested for more money. I just got tired living that kind of life,” she says.
In late 2015, a well-wisher paid for her one-month training at a Nairobi driving school.
On graduation, she approached a Kibra businesswoman running a motorcycle taxi business and confidently asked for a job.
“I told her ‘look I am trained and I have the certificate, kindly me give a job and she did’,” she says with a grin.
She then operated in Kibra for two months as she sought to master her riding skills. Later, she expanded her horizon to Ngong’ Road, operating for another two months and thereafter, shifted to Nairobi central business district.
Before Covid-19 pandemic, Ms Asibwa’s day started at 5am. She would complete her domestic chores, prepare and take her children to school before setting off to work at 9am.She could then return home at 5.30pm when the school day ends.
Now, she wakes up at 6am, prepare breakfast and lunch for them. Thereafter, escort them to a neighbour, a teacher who is coaching them for a daily pay of Sh20. She makes sure she is at home not later than 6pm.
For almost six months now the earnings from the business have been little. Less movements of people as many are either working from home or moved upcountry after losing jobs has led to decline in business.
In a good day, Ms Asibwa could take home a Sh1,000 after remitting the daily Sh400 pay to her employer. Now, raising even Sh300 take to the owner is problematic.
“But she is understanding. She does not harass me for failing to meet my target. She knows things are bad. So she lets the day pass if I am unable to raise the Sh400,” she says.
Her wish is to buy her own motorcycle so she can make more money to raise her children.
“For a woman to be in boda boda business, she must believe in herself. She must have a thick skin, otherwise working with men in this sector can be very rough,” she says.