You have seen them going round the estates, looking for menial jobs like washing clothes or cleaning houses. In some estates, they sit at the gate waiting for Lady Luck to smile on them. They are commonly referred to as mama nguo or mama kuosha.
Most live in informal settlements like Kibera, Kawangware, Kangemi, Huruma and Dandora, and wash for their affluent neighbours. For over 20 years Rhoda Ambundo has been a mama nguo in Parklands. And in her own words getting a client in this business is a gamble, and people take advantage of this and make them even wash under garments.
"I am forced to wash the under garments to earn at the end of the day. Since I have already spent money on fare coming here, there is no need going back empty-handed," said Ambundo.
Those who turn down the deal end up going home empty-handed. Though they charge anything from Sh300 to Sh800 depending on the pile of clothes, at times they settle for less.
"There are times we are forced to walk back home because what you get can not cater for food and transport," remarked Mary Muthethia, a mother and a mama nguo in Huruma.
Some women have accused the mama nguos of seducing their husbands and throw them out without pay.
"At one point a woman kicked me out of her house claiming that I was eyeing her husband," recalled Ruth Munai, one of the cleaning women in Parklands.
Apparently Munai had negotiated the price with the woman, but the husband opted to pay her more which evoked suspicions from the wife and loss of the job. Others like Fasiria Wanja believe some of their clients practise black magic. She once went to wash a house where the owner kept a tortoise and snakes.
"I would hear strange voices coming from a locked room until I saw a tortoise walking around the house. I was shocked and reported to the employer who seemed unmoved about the matter," recalled Wanja.
There were times the mama nguos thought they were going to launder only to end up feeding pets. Jane Vilenda, a Kawangware resident, once fed three cats at an apartment along Muringa Road.
"I reported for the job only to be told that it involved feeding cats," said Vilenda.
Another mama nguo from Kawangware confessed she had been sexually harassed.
"I have twice been sexually harassed by a male client. Every time I cleaned his room he would lock the door and abuse me," said Jentrix Aloo from Kawangware.