At A Glance
-Covid-19 has crippled informal sector that is widely dominated by the youth, leading to thousands of them losing jobs across the country.
– Situation is made worse by the rising number of youth dropping out of school before completing either the primary or secondary school levels.
– The ‘Eselengi Emaa’, group which translates to Maasai Girls, is a team of 50 vibrant and determined young women who have come together to do shoe shine business in Narok town to earn a living.
By Bell Pere
The Covid-19 pandemic has crippled the informal sector that is widely dominated by the youth, leading to thousands of them losing jobs across the country.
According to data collected by Info Track Kenya, the situation will worsen if the pandemic continues and in the process leading to closure of more businesses and markets.
The census report released by the government last year indicated that about 39 percent of Kenyans youth are unemployed.
That means that a third of Kenyan youths have no jobs as the gap between the rich and the poor continues to widen.
The situation is further complicated by the high number of youth dropping out of school before completing either the primary or secondary school levels.
Many of them therefore lack formal education and have to seek alternative ways to earn a living because they cannot be employed.
In Narok County, a group of Maasai girls have come together to engage in income generating businesses to earn them a living.
The ‘Eselengi Emaa’, group translated Maasai Girls, is a team of 50 vibrant and determined young women who have come together to do shoe shine business in Narok town.
Their leader Grace Nakola says they had to think of work that could accommodate as many of them as possible because they all depend on their parents due to lack of jobs.
“We have bought two executive shoe shining stalls with a capacity to serve four people at a time but we will buy more booths to expand our business,” said Nakola.
She lamented that lack of fees and early pregnancies made most girls drop out of school and depend on relatives or well-wishers for survival.
“Some of us didn’t get formal education that is required for white collar jobs and so we have engaged in shoe shining to earn some income,” said Nakola.
The 22-year-old woman got the business idea from the internet and found it suitable and cheap to start because they do not need technical expertise.
“We know that this is a men dominated job, but we will work hard to fit in because we are passionate to do the job,” she said.
Nakola thanked the County Women Representative SoipanTuya and Labour Ministry Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS) Patrick Ntutu for funding them to start the business.
“They liked our proposal and gave us some little money to begin the business. We have also requested the county government to help us expand our business,” said Nakola.
She called on the Narok residents to support them by visiting their booths and assured them of excellent and memorable service.
“We have plans to expand our business and form a big Sacco that will boost the economy of our county,” she reiterated.
Another group member Betty Ngotiek said the new initiative was a big relief, as she will never again stay idle in town as was the case in the past.
She said they are a self-driven team who enjoy their work, which many women find challenging because it makes one’s hands dirty.
“We know it is a challenging job because shoes are always dirty but we are comfortable as it will give us food to put in our tables,” said Ms. Ngotiek.
Customers Stephen Ole Nkoitoi lauded the young girls for creating an opportunity to create jobs.
“We want the girls to add more booths in town and dominate this market. We will promote them since they are our own,” said Ole Nkoitoi.
He said the initiative by the girls gives men a big challenge, as they too need to unite and do viable jobs.
“I like their services because they are too thorough when doing their job. The services they are offering are better than those offered by other shoe shiners and that is why they will attract many customers,” he said.
Many people interviewed at the booths asked county leaders and elected leaders to support the young girls by giving them cheap loans.
“They are role models to many other girls in the Maasai land as they have not engaged in drug abuse or prostitution to get their daily income,” said Ole Nkoitoi.
The initiative by the young Maasai women is an encouragement to the girls in the community who go for early marriages and those who drop out of school because of teenage pregnacy.
Kenya Demographic Health Survey (KDHS) data shows that Narok County was leading last year in teenage pregnancy, infant, maternal and child mortality at 40 percent.