“Most ladies fear construction work, but I told myself that I can do it,” said 21-year-old Emily Kananu, a construction beneficiary. Standing at a height of 5 feet, 5 inches, the lady would not strike one as a typical construction worker. However, once she starts talking, her focus and intensity come through. “When ladies say I can’t do this, I challenge myself to do the opposite,” she said, her face breaking into a full grin.
Emily comes from a family of five; she is the last born. She has two brothers and two sisters. Her parents are farmers in Meru, where they grow various crops for subsistence. She attended Kianjai Girls Secondary School in Meru and completed her secondary school exams in 2017. In 2018, she joined the Meru National Youth Service (MYS) for a one-month community service training programme. MYS is patterned after the National Youth Service, an organization that trains youths in various trades and provides a platform for them to participate in national building.
Her stint with the MYS got her a scholarship to study masonry at Meru National Polytechnic for a period of six months, where she earned a Grade 1 Certificate in masonry. The course was an eye opener for her. “I constructed a house as part of my practical studies and I felt very proud of myself,” she recalled with a chuckle. After her studies, she began doing odd jobs at various construction sites in Meru, while at the same time being available to the Meru Youth Service for any community service engagements available. It was while at this stage of her life that she heard about the Young Africa Works Project and applied to join in 2020 and was accepted.
Once she joined the project, she underwent a three-month training course in masonry at Arcskills, before moving on to the Ngong Kibiko farm for another three months of on-the-job training and mentorship. After her training, she plunged into greenhouse manufacturing. Her main role was installing the glazing paper on the greenhouses and supporting the construction teams in any other roles.
Emily, who still works at the Ngong Kibiko farm maintaining the greenhouses, looks to the future with hope. She and a colleague, Bernard Munene, have partnered to register a business, Emma Imenti Masons. Their plan is that the business will supply construction materials in future.
“In 10 years, I will be running my own business, and I want to be among the most successful women in the sector,” she said. “I have tried my hand at construction, and I like it. It is not as hard as I thought,” she added. Meanwhile, she continues to earn her living from the Young Africa Works Project.