When the monthly paycheck suddenly stops coming

Having a job is one thing; keeping it is another.

The readiness to face the aftermath of losing a job loss is essential.

Anyone can be devastated after losing a job, more so if this came unexpectedly. Low skilled persons, particularly women in rural areas, are especially hit when they lose their jobs.

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With the gender dynamics shifting, more rural women are burdened with the responsibility of providing for their families. Gone are the days where men were the breadwinners of their households.

Going by this growing trend, the women have no option but to engage in any activity that will generate an income or put food on the table.

It is even worse when a woman is retrenched for whatever reason. Companies are downsizing while others are collapsing. While some companies may prepare their employees for tough times ahead, most do not.

Low skilled women who regularly work on the low-grade jobs suffer the most. I am talking of women whose highest level of academics is  primary school; women with no formal training.

They suffer because they are not prepared to hop into the next train and start a new chapter with no much hassle. The salaries for such women may not allow them to save for emergencies.

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Being a breadwinner earning meager wages, all the weekly or monthly incomes are used to foot bills.

At the point of retrenchment, women in such a state will have nothing to take home; in most cases, their job arrangements do not qualify them to any entitlement upon retrenchment.

I am drawing my generalisation from my interaction with women from Kamere area, Naivasha who were once employed by flower companies in the area before the firms closed shop.

Out of the 11 women I interacted with, seven were victims of the employing company collapsing or downsizing. Their response to whether they were prepared for such an occurrence was a resounding NO!

Some of them had worked for the flower companies for more than 10 years. They had reached a point of comfort where they did not imagine losing their jobs.

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While each of the women I interacted with is involved in a small income generating activity, they cited their frustrations between the time they lost their jobs and when they started their current businesses.

One woman who has turned to a domestic worker; washing other people’s clothes and doing house chores for a living, demonstrated how losing a job can be daunting especially among the single mothers and widows.

A number of my respondents said they did not want to go back home. Some were buying time with their small businesses hoping that a new flower company will open and they can get employed once again.

Reality sinks in when the low skilled women realise that they may not get another job after losing one, especially in a nation where employers go for academic qualifications instead of hands-on experience, even for duties that need no testimonials.

The transition period between job loss and taking up a new role or a business is crucial. It is a point where most victims of job loss, especially low skilled women, can give up in life.

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I tend to believe that it is vital for employers to prepare their staff for such eventualities. Establishing workers’ savings schemes and encouraging the workers to save a certain percentage of their salaries every month is a great way to reduce the frustrations and depression that go with job losses.

I think this is a chance for women representatives to initiate tailor-made empowerment forums on the social, economic and political spectra. Building their capacities is fundamental.

Ms Kibii is an Environment Scientist and the founder of Womennarrate.com Contact [email protected]     

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JobsCareersRetrenchmentUnemployment