Boda Boda business gets woman riding out of poverty
Talk of Boda- Boda business (motor cycle taxi) in Trans-Nzoia County whether involving a bicycle or motorbike then whoever you are talking to will quickly link it to male operators who have dominated the scene since its introduction in the country.
However, the case is not the same for 27-year-old Emily Milimo who has defied all odds to embrace the male-dominated business that has seen her earn a living and realise her ambitions in life.
Born in Amagoro area of Kiminini Constituency, Milimo went through numerous experiences in life before realising that she could make it in life by joining the boda boda industry.
A Standard Eight school dropout, Milimo attended her primary education at Amagoro Primary School but did not sit for the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) examinations due to lack of school fees . Speaking to Kenyan Woman in Kitale town, the mother of three children narrated how she dropped out of school in 2001 and went to search for a job in Nairobi where she worked in several companies for two years. After the two years she realized that she was not achieving much as a casual labourer and decided to come back to the village to venture into other businesses which also failed to work.
“When I came back home I started burning and selling charcoal to villagers in Amagoro between 2003 and 2004. However, I still did not find anything good out of the activity. I decided to leave home and start looking for a job in Kitale town in 2006,” Milimo explains.
Famously known as “Senge” by her customers and fellow Boda Boda operators, Milimo says in less than one year of entering Kitale town she met Juvenalis Oloo whom she married and started a family with but this was not the end of her ambitions of becoming a successful woman.
While in marriage she also tried to sell some foodstuffs but was not satisfied with the outcome. She quit and decided to learn how to ride a motorbike with the assistance of her husband whom would borrow motorbikes from friends to teach her how to ride until she stabilized.
She acquired the motorbike riding skills between 2009 and 2010 after which she came up with the idea of acquiring a loan at the Kenya Women Finance Trust to enable her purchase her own motorbike to start the business that she had been yearning for a long time.
Milimo got a teacher friend who gave her a pay slip to act as surety at the bank. She was then given a loan of KSh100,000 that she used to buy the motorbike in 2011 and immediately set off ferrying customers within the town.
After roaming for sometime without a particular stage of identity she then chose to start operating at the Showground stage. After sometime she realised that male operators were not giving her the support and cooperation she needed. She then decided shift camp to Kamukunji stage in Kitale town.
She paid KSh2,000 to the people in charge of the Kamukunji stage before she could start. Unlike the male operators she was given a chance to pay the operating fee in instalments.
After Milimo was fully registered as an operator at the stage, she hit the ground running and started repaying the bank loan at a rate of KSh11,000 per month. She was able to service the whole loan and started saving her own money since she now fully owned the motorbike.
At the end of every month Milimo saves between KSh25,000 and KSh30,000 after extracting other domestic expenditures in the home together with supporting her siblings for whom she pays school fees.
Milimo starts work at 9am after taking her children to school and dropping her husband off at his place of work.
However, unlike the children whom she takes to school without charging a fee, her husband pays his fare to and from work just as he could have paid any other operator serving him in such a capacity.
Milimo closes business at 5pm and goes back to her house to engage in domestic chores unlike most male operators who start their duties at around 5am and close as late as 11pm or even later. Surprisingly they do not be save as much as Milimo.
Even with the motor bike, Milimo feels she has not satisfied her ambitions. She is now aspiring to buy a vehicle preferably a Toyota G-Touring which she wants to start operating as a taxi within Kitale.
“God willing I might be moving into taxi by the end of this year or early next year because I feel I have saved a substantial amount of money that I want to use to buy the vehicle,” she says.
The move by Milimo to graduate to another level of taxi business from the boda boda in just three years means a lot to other people in the business especially male operators who might have been in the business for close to ten years but have not gone to such steps.
The second-born in a family of nine, Milimo acknowledges that working a business associated with men comes with numerous challenges that need a lot of discipline and principals to survive.
She says there are some customers especially men who often decline to pay her with intentions of luring her to their houses or just taking advantage of her femininity. In such circumstances she opts to forfeit the cash.
Other male customers fear she could drop them or cause an accident while carrying them hence decline to be carried by a woman. There are others who want to hold her tight as she carries them in a move that is aimed at distracting her.
Milimo has often met women who discourage her from doing such a business and advise her to venture into feminine businesses such as selling of vegetables but she remains adamant and focused with her job.
She has confirmed that the boda boda business can be done by anybody whether a man or woman.
“Boda boda business is just like any other business and can be done by anybody whether a man or a woman and all can be successful therefore I call upon my fellow women and even girls to give it a try and they will like it,” she says..