From where I stand: “My dream is to own my own garage”Christine Wambulwa, 40, is the only woman mechanic in Kakuma Town, Turkana County, Kenya. As the sole breadwinner of her family, she works to send her children to school, so they can have the education she couldn’t afford for herself.
In my family, I was the 14th child, and the only girl.I grew up watching my brothers. When the boys were making toy cars, I was making toy cars, when they looked after cattle, I too looked after cattle.
I stopped my education at eighth grade, because there was no money for more. But I was too young to marry. I couldn’t get office work because my education was very low. So I started doing this work, repairing vehicles. I didn’t see any other woman doing this work… but I heard of one other woman mechanic in Kenya, her name was Rose. But I only heard of her, I never saw her. I am the only woman mechanic in Kakuma.
I like this work so much. I work daily, I don’t have a weekend. Every day, by 7.30 a.m. I am at work and I work until 7.30 in the evening. But if someone has a vehicle break down in the middle of the road, or in the bush, at any time, I will go.
There are challenges in this job. First, I don’t have any space. I am working along the roadside. There’s also lack of capital, so I don’t have enough tools. Whatever little money I make, goes to the family, and for my children’s school fees.
The other challenge is ignorance. Men don’t believe that a woman can repair a vehicle. A man will think ten times before giving me a vehicle to repair.
My message to other women and girls: Do not fear. Work is work. I lost my husband, so I had to work to provide for my family... Nothing’s hard for a woman, it’s only in the mind.
My dream is to have my own garage and to train more girls and women in this trade I will be then known as the Kenyan woman mechanic who was able to have her own garage, train and mentor girls.
I would love for my children to take up this job. But I don’t know what they will decide to be when they grow up. My first one says he wants to be a scientist.”
Christine Wambulwa lives and works in Kakuma Town, in north-western Kenya, where the Kakuma Refugee Camp is located. The camp and a nearby settlement host more than 186,000 residents today, and the town offers much-needed services and commerce in the area. UN Women, with funding from the Government of Japan, recently concluded the first phase of the Women’s Leadership, Empowerment, Access and Protection in Crisis Response project in Kakuma refugee camp and Kalobeyei settlement that equipped women with leadership and livelihood skills. Christine was one of the women featured in a documentary series produced by UN Women’s implementing partner, FilmAid.