MEET a couple who believe that work is the best job for a person to earn a living.
For the past 18 years, Mr Wilson Ondieki and his wife Monica Adhiambo, have been earning money by digging graves and toilets. These residents of Kisumu, have gone against the expectations of many, have endured criticism and even risked their lives in an effort to make a living.
Their collaboration in this work started one day when Mrs. Adhiambo brought her husband lunch on his second day of digging a 15 feet deep toilet in a certain area near their residence.
He found Mr Ondieki alone without an assistant, popularly known as the ‘hand man’. When Ms. Adhiambo asked where his assistant was, her husband told her that he was at work.
“The next day, when he brought me food, he said to me: Father Achieng, let me go in there and try if I can dig. I let her and she tried. When I returned home that day, father Achieng told me again if you still don’t have an assistant, I can accompany you and help you. Aren’t we looking for money?” Mr Ondieki explained. In the same way, Mrs. Adhiambo started to get used to the work of digging toilets, a job that is done by men.
“Now I have experience. I like this job more because it enables me to earn money for living. I use that money to pay rent, buy food and clothes. These days I don’t lend money from people,” explained Mrs. Adhiambo.
So far, the 45-year-old woman has strengthened her skills in the job until she beat her husband who taught her how to dig a toilet.
“I was taught for two weeks and in the third week, I was already more used to it,” said Mrs. Adhiambo, smiling happily. The mother of three revealed that over the years she has had to put up with people pleading for her decision to do men’s work. He was surprised that among those who were speaking badly of him were members of his family. “My brother told me that I am doing a shameful job. But it was my husband who got me into this job and I love it because it has helped me a lot,” Mrs. Adhiambo explained.
Most of the latrines that this couple digs are 15 feet deep but some go as deep as 20 feet. Mrs. Adhiambo says that sometimes she encounters big stones and what she does in such a situation is to ask God to intervene. Now, how do they share the income from their sweat?
“After finishing the work, the client pays me and that money is ours, me and my wife. We always share, half bin half,” explains Mr Ondieki. They usually charge between Sh500 and Sh600 per foot. But sometimes they lower the price to Sh400, depending on the season and the relationship between them and a particular customer.
Apart from digging latrines, Mr Ondieki and Mrs Adhiambo have also tried their luck in other jobs such as preparing graves.
“We were digging graves as well and the pay was good. But due to the reasons of traditions and customs, we decided to abandon the work,” explains Mr Ondieki.
Mrs. Adhiambo, who is a respected mother in the community, said apart from digging toilets, she also builds houses with mud, a job known in the area as “Rwadho ot”. Her message to her fellow women is that they should not choose a job or take other jobs like men only. “Don’t stay at home, go out and work and you will earn money.
If you sit at home waiting for your husband to feed you, you may miss each other. Sometimes there is no flour, there is no cooking oil while you are sitting there doing nothing,” She said. Ms. Adhiambo is an example and a perfect example that what a man can do, a woman can do even better.