What you need to know:
- On a good day, she fixes several vehicles and earns not less than Sh5,000.
- Her firstborn child is set to join college.
- Another child is in secondary school, while the last-born is a candidate in primary school.
Lucy Wangui Kimani, 38, is among the few women in careers traditionally dominated by men. She is an auto mechanic.
As we meet her at the TSS garage in Mpeketoni, Lamu West, zeal and determination are vividly inscribed on her face.
She is in a blue overall and holds the tools of her trade, including spanners, in her greasy hands. The single mother of three has been a mechanic for the past 10 years, having been apprenticed.
She was born in Kairo village in Mathioya, Murang’a County, and schooled at Kairo Primary. She, however, could not proceed for secondary education because of tuition fee challenges. She dropped out and opted to train in mechanics.
She mastered the skill and has now become a sought-after mechanic. She relocated from Murang’a to Lamu County, where she is attached to the Mpeketoni TSS, a renowned auto repair garage with 40 mechanics and casuals. Ms Wangui is the only woman employed here.
She says she did not allow gender stereotypes to discourage her from pursuing her interest in mechanics.
“I am a mother of three. I am raising my children single-handedly. After completing my KCPE, my mother wasn’t able to raise school fees for me to join secondary school. I embarked straight on the mechanic job. I thank God that today I am skilled.”
Her day begins at 8.30am and ends between 5.30pm and 6pm, depending on her work schedule. She says she works tirelessly to earn a decent living. The job enables her to provide for her family, including paying school fees and meeting emergency needs.
Sh5,000 a day
On a good day, she fixes several vehicles and earns not less than Sh5,000. Her firstborn child is set to join college. Another child is in secondary school, while the last-born is a candidate in primary school.
Through hard work and determination, she now has a big customer base, she says. “I love the job. We provide vehicle services where the costs depend on the nature of the problem. Sometimes we fix or paint vehicles for between Sh20,000 and as high as Sh70,000.”
Ms Wangui advises, especially women, that opportunities arise in different forms and they should not be selective. Sometimes people find themselves in fields they never thought they would join, she says.
The job is not without challenges. The garage has no changing room or washroom for women. “Sharing social amenities with my colleagues is quite challenging, especially where privacy is concerned. Once I report in the morning, I have to make sure I remain alone in the changing room. It’s uncomfortable to change my attire as we don’t have a special room for women.”
The work also involves a lot of dirt and so she has to avoid make-up. “You can even look at my hair; I don’t have much time to make it. Our work involves a lot of dust, used oil, and dirt everywhere.”
Ms Wangui says some customers do not believe in women in the field. Sometimes customers decline her services and opt for her male colleagues. However, despite the challenges, she is undeterred. She works hard and has never been ashamed of the work.
“This is where I get money to support my family and though the work involves a lot of dirt, I am proud of it,” she says.
Ms Wangui advises fellow women looking to become mechanics to believe in themselves. “Challenges will always be there, but, at the end of the day, it’s knowing who you are and understanding that this is not you versus them. It’s you versus you.”
David Kinyanjui, a mechanic and welder at Mpeketoni’s TSS Vehicle Garage, describes Ms Wangui as hardworking and non-selective.
“We’ve been interacting well with Ms Wangui here. She does all sorts of work surrounding the mechanic field. We feel like we have a fellow man when working with Ms Wangui. She is dedicated. We need more women of strength like Ms Wangui to work with.”
According to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, the untapped potential of women has gained greater attention in recent times.
The Constitution provides a framework for addressing gender inequality, to remedy the traditional exclusion of women from certain sectors and promote their full involvement in every aspect of growth and development.