When A Kenyan Woman Took Up A Man’s Job, People Scoffed. She Persevered

By Robyn Dixon
Los Angeles Times

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Established drivers in Nairobi told Faith Khakai that she would have to be crazy, foolish or desperate to work as a motorcycle taxi driver. Despite the naysayers, Khakai did it anyway, first taking lessons on how to ride and then hitting the streets.


When Faith Khakai started up work as a motorcycle taxi driver in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, it scandalized her neighbors.

“They say, ‘Women are weak,'” she recalled. “They say, ‘There are things that men can do but women can’t.'”

People warned her she would become infertile. Men whispered sinister warnings to her husband.

“The neighbors say I could be cursed and have an accident,” she said. “There were some who even told my husband that now that he has allowed me to ride a bike, I will befriend other men and I will not be a good wife.”

The motorcycle taxis that zip passengers through the city’s choking traffic are widely loathed for their daredevil antics.

They weave through small gaps, cut off drivers and buzz through traffic jams. Known as boda bodas, they have some of the highest motor fatality rates.

It is considered a man’s job, attractive to unemployed young men who have few other means to make a living.

Established drivers told Khakai that she would have to be crazy, foolish or desperate to take it on.

She may not have been crazy or foolish, but, with four children to support, she was desperate. The money her husband earned as a motorcycle courier was not enough to support the family.

She had her first child at age 12 and had to drop out of school. She later married the father.

Living in Kibera, a slum outside Nairobi, she settled on the job for the same reason most men do: It is something an unskilled person can easily learn in a sector that is not regulated.

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