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06.05.2016 | Guest Commentary

Hi, I Am Lillian – An Electrican in Nairobi

Lillian an electrician in Nairobi talks about her experiences in a male dominated industry.

Lillian in her working clothes
Lillian is doing well as an electrician © Brandstädter/Welthungerhilfe © Philipp Brandstädter/Welthungerhilfe
Lillian Ondiso Haggai Electrician

I am an orphan, a single Mother in Nairobi, Kenya and I take care of my four siblings. Oh, and I am doing fine as an electrican in a male dominated industry. Beeing an eletrician was made possible by Watoto wa Lwanga, a vocational training institution that seeks to empower disadvantaged youth in Kenya with soft as well as technical skills. They seek to enable us to take controll of our lives and become more self-reliant.

This is my story

I am fourth born in a family of five children (three boys and two girls). My parents passed on in 2003 due to HIV/AIDS related illnesses. At that time I was in class eight. My rural home is Kakamega County, Vihiga – Kituru village. I completed form four through struggles after the death of my parents. My relatives were lucky enough to get a bursary fund that enabled me to complete form four.

After I completed form four I moved from Vihiga to Nairobi – Kibera where I moved in with my aunt as I tried to get a job here in Nairobi. Efforts to get a job were futile and my siblings back in the village were now depending on me. At times I would be lucky enough to get a casual job of washing people’s clothes for pay in the estates. I later had a small business of selling vegetables so that I could support my siblings back in the village.

While staying with my aunt, I got a boyfriend who impregnated me and thereafter disappeared. I delivered my son with a lot of complications but I thank God my son was healthy.

Before delivery I had moved to a distant uncle as I felt that the baby would be an added burden to my aunt who did not have a job too in the slum.

I had a bad start

Having a small boy and with no work and siblings depending on me drove me into a state of depression and hopelessness. My son’s health was not very good and he looked emaciated. He was constantly falling ill and I did not even have money to take him to the hospital. One day a neighbor told me about the teenage mothers program at St. Charles Lwanga and I decided to come and enquire on the different courses that were being offered.

The social worker enrolled me in the program and better still the institute catered for my ailing son’s medication. He was enrolled in the under-five program and the good nutrition that was being offered in the pre-school section enabled him to improve greatly. The chest problem became part of the past. While I attended classes at the Vocational Training, my son would be in the pre-school.

I was the only girl in the class but that did not deter me from being the best. It does not matter what the society thinks and takes as men related courses, you can achieve what you want if you put your heart to it.

Lillian Ondiso Haggai

Training changed my attitude

At the Vocational Training, I chose electrical installation as I always had a passion for lighting systems especially the interior lightening system. Apart from electrical installation, other support subjects like life skills, entrepreneurship, English and communication, guidance and counseling were being offered. Life skills sessions were really beneficial.

I had a very low self-esteem due to the challenges that I was going through. I started looking at myself as a fighter as I had to make a living and help my siblings. By the time I was completing my course, I could do any kind of wiring and my instructor was very proud of me.

I had to fully utilize the chance that I was given and sure I did utilize the chance.

Being a role model

The director was very happy with my performance in class and this landed me a very good job in one of their construction sites in Hurlingham. I am now doing wiring at the site and being with professionals in the field of electrical installation in a big construction site involving apartments has really pushed me forward in my career.

For all the young mothers out there who do not know what they really want and they are hopeless, my story may encourage you and perhaps open your eyes.

My life has changed since I earn good money that earns me a very decent living, and my siblings do not have to languish in poverty.

Take control of your own life

This is my story and being a young mother does not condemn you to a life of hopelessness and desperation. It is not the end of the world. Take the initiative and do something for yourself. Am an example in the village and so many young girls are encouraged by the direction that my life has taken. It is possible to emancipate yourself from poverty, for sure am a fighter.

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