She is a pioneer motorcycle rider and a bodaboda operator at the heart of Naivasha town.
Ruth Wambui, 21, has proved doubting Thomases wrong, for it is uncommon to spot a woman atop a motorcycle at a bodaboda bay, ready to compete with men for customers.
Ms Wambui confidently eases out of the bay with a male passenger who evidently enjoys every moment of the ride.
Before settling down to the business, she had to convince her parents, alive to the reality that being conservative, they would reject her choice.
Her parents were shocked. They could not figure out why a University of Nairobi diploma holder in community development would opt for bodaboda.
“They flatly refused,” she told the Nation during an interview in Naivasha.
To them, their daughter’s choice was wrong, for she had attended a top university and ought to “aim higher”. Besides, it was a too risky, the parents argued.
The ever smiling Ms Wambui would hear none of it and kept pestering them. At last, they reluctantly agreed and offered to support her purchase the motorcycle.
THE RISE BEGINS
However, an NGO hired her on contract. “The ability to ride a motorcycle was the first criteria in securing the work at hand. I emerged the best on the interview day,” she said.
The contract ended after one year, and Ms Wambui found herself in the streets. She tried her luck in the male-dominated bodaboda field. “It was not easy breaking the monopoly. But I stood my ground,” she said.
Despite challenges, she has secured a steady number of male customers who prefer her smooth riding to her rough male colleagues.
On a good day which starts between 7.00 am and end at 8.00 pm she takes home between Sh500 and Sh700, a handsome amount given than many in the same employ rarely rake in that kind of cash.. “She is a perfect rider,” said one customer identified only as Mr Ali.
Her entry into the crowded market elicited mixed reaction with some of her colleagues waiting with bated breath to see how she handles some raucous customers hell-bent to cause trouble at the slightest provocation. Frowns were not restricted to the pessimists only.
“Some of the customers would stand beside my motorbike only to melt away after realising I was the one to ride it. Those willing to be taken to their destination would firmly cling to the bike fearing for the worst,” she said of the challenges.
Women were the worst afflicted by the fear bug, going underground after spotting her approaching the bike to give them a ride. “One year on my job, women are yet to muster courage as they still prefer male riders,” revealed Ms Wambui.
Not the one to go down with the self pity, she has managed to cut a niche in the competitive industry having secured a steady number of male customers who prefer her smooth riding skills unlike her male counterparts who at times prove to drive too fast.
Despite several of her colleagues falling victims to gangsters, her one and half years in the trade remain unblemished and she says she has God to thank. “I am yet to encounter any ugly incident despite the obvious dangers,” said the amiable Ms Wambui.
EDUCATION STILL AN OPTION
She is, however, not done with her education yet and is saving money to enroll for a degree course while keeping her fingers crossed for a potential employer.
“Though I cannot complain much about my work I still need to make use of my education through securing formal employment,” said Ms Wambui.
But, in the meantime, she continues to faithfully serve her customers despite being “the odd one out” in a boda boda business that has more than 2,000 men in Naivasha town and its environs.
Naivasha Base Commander, Mr Roy Njeru acknowledges Ms Wambui effort’s, saying that she has proved to be an able rider and at the same time providing another avenue of income generation for herself.
“Maybe this would be the turning point for female jobseekers, with other young women like her joining the industry,” said the Naivasha traffic department head.