In the expansive stone quarry of Warasojet, located in Kieni constituency, Nyeri county, a young girl confidently makes her way into the quarry, equipped with her trade tools packed in a bucket. In one hand, she carries a sledgehammer, while the other holds a phone.
This diligent worker is none other than 22-year-old Wanjiku Kariuki, who has been toiling as a quarry worker for the past eight years, tirelessly crushing rocks into ballast. Initially, she took up this occupation to earn money for her school fees. However, she soon realized that it wasn’t sufficient. When her school headteacher sent her home, she began crushing stones independently. After two weeks, she returned to her teacher, proudly declaring her new venture, and he bought the ballast she had produced.
Interestingly, Wanjiku entered this field of work following in her mother’s footsteps, despite it being predominantly male-dominated. Her mother, Margaret Wangechi, believes in the principle of self-reliance, saying, “Everyone should be able to create their own opportunities instead of relying on others.”
Inspired by people she saw selling clothes on TikTok, Wanjiku wondered if she could sell her stones in a similar manner. From that moment on, her phone became an invaluable tool for her trade. As soon as she arrives at work, she strategically positions her phone, goes live on her page, and then commences her stone-crushing task.
Since embracing social media, Wanjiku’s life has undergone a remarkable transformation, and the entire quarry has reaped the benefits. She exclaims, “Through the internet, I have gained numerous customers. People tell me that they have been waiting for this opportunity, and even though the work is hard, it enables me to provide for my parents. They can live more comfortably than before.”
George Mwangi, a fellow quarry worker, attests, “Our work used to be known only locally, but now we are recognized even in faraway places. Just recently, we transported our stones all the way to Sagana.”
However, Wanjiku admits that her journey hasn’t been without challenges. She has experienced cyberbullying and harsh criticism, but she perseveres. She declares, “There are people who insult and dislike me, but I don’t retaliate. I believe that social media should be used as an economic tool. Start a business and utilize your online presence to sell your products, but refrain from exploiting yourself, damaging your reputation, and engaging in activities that will ultimately harm you.”
As Wanjiku continues to toil under the scorching sun of Kieni, she remains hopeful that the fusion of technology with a traditionally labor-intensive job will continue to enhance her prospects and lead to a better future.