I earn a living cracking rocks to produce kokoto (ballast) and building bricks from a quarry site near River Kathita, about half a kilometre from the Embu Level Five Hospital. I started this seven years ago, after working as a casual in factories in Nairobi and at construction sites. I bought stone hammers at Sh300 and started working on rocks in the neighbourhood.
Despite this being seen as a man’s work, I have found success in it and even employ two or three men everyday to help me. Using the stone hammer, I produce 10 wheelbarrows of ballast every day. Jointly, we produce about 40 wheelbarrows and sell a tonne of ballast at Sh1,000.
This job pays for my family’s upkeep, rent and fees for my three children, the eldest who is about to enroll for a diploma in Information Communication Technology.
Men would laugh at me on finding me working behind a large rock but I ignored them and with time they began to respect me. My children were chided at school by their mates that their mother did a lowly job meant for men. I encouraged them to accept the situation since I could not steal to provide for them.
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I’m glad that the Ministry of Mining has noticed my efforts and is supporting me. The ministry is in the process of helping me to acquire licences for artisanal mining and environmental mining, which will enable me to qualify for a Women Fund loan.
I will use the loan to buy a machine to crack stones so that I do more volumes in a day. I plan to lease rocky lands to expand my production capacity. I sometimes get orders of 20 or 30 tonnes but I can’t provide as that is beyond my capacity.
The ministry also promised to assist me get protective gear such as goggles, apron, gloves and footwear.