egg girl's challenges

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Footsteps, yarns and little fibs

from egg girl to nursery worker to hotel worker...

Submitted: January 08, 2018

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Submitted: January 08, 2018



A common ploy, and a sign of hope, is to send young girls to ask! Well, why wouldn’t you? Young girls cutely dressed in their Sunday best, a bow or two in the hair, oiled skin and big brown eyes with the purest of white whites. The other little tug on the heartstrings is to be very polite, which African kids can be! How could you refuse them? This is how young Ruth came to our door with a bag of six eggs to sell. Of course we bought her eggs and she became our ‘Egg Girl.’

Ruth came every week to sell her mother’s eggs and we soon came to meet her mother and a little later, her father. I enjoyed his company but I noticed the Mbise made a quick exit whenever he called. Of course I asked him why, and the reason was that Ruth’s father was well-known to be a growly man. Well, he wasn’t with me, but when you have a beautiful young daughter, you would need a hefty stick to keep sniffing would-be suitors away! 

Later as a secondary school girl, Ruth asked if she could work in the nursery because her ambition was to become a hotel chef. She needed funds to pay for her fees because her family didn’t have the resources. Ruth joined in well with the other workers and she was a good worker. When she was around, Mbise spruced himself up a bit and liked to rub perfumed Vaseline into his dry hands. It was something for me to smile about, although he didn’t seem to spark her interest. As her entry into the course became close, Ruth did a six month full-time stint in the nursery with us to earn extra pocket money – most of which went to her family.

Shortly after Ruth left for her course, we left for New Zealand to return some two years later. Things change quickly in two years especially with the development to young people and we noticed many changes. A new Egg Girl quickly arrived, Ruth’s young sister, Ester, who used the same ploy of looking super-cute to start us off on her weekly egg delivery. Of course one of our first questions to Ester was about the progress of Ruth. But Ester was evasive, which is not all that unusual in Swahili, but still…

The next day, the girls’ mother arrived at our door for ‘a little talk’. We sat down with the ubiquitous soda to chat. She wanted us to hear the news from her, rather than through village gossip! Ruth had had a baby! She looked at us for any sign of shock, or disappointment, but we were simply listening. Ruth had progressed through her course and had a job l at a hotel. She was due for the next promotional step onto permanent staff, but to get there, she was required to sleep with her boss! Mama Ruth told us that in such situations, young women have little choice. We had seen it before.

Ruth’s mother told us that she was prepared to look after the child if we were prepared to employ Ruth in the nursery so she could buy soap. ‘Buying soap’ was a quilloquial way of saying ‘living expenses’. So we employed her, which eerily completed the cycle of every female employee we had at the nursery ended up getting pregnant, even the cat! From time to time Ruth brought her baby to meet and greet and from what I saw, she was a capable and loving mum. She was fortunate because families aren’t always supportive ‘when girls get into trouble’.

She was well aware that her position was not at all sustainable because once we left, she would have no income, so she applied for a job at a different hotel. Her interview was successful and she won a junior position. A week later, she was wanting her job back at the nursery! She told us that on her very first day on the job, the hard word was put upon her! Her superior persisted, as if her refusal was of no account! So she walked away from her job, as she put it, ‘I wasn’t going to put my body through all of that again’!

So Ruth was happy to remain as a nursery worker for as long as we stayed there, her new aim was to accumulate as much cash as she could with the idea of setting up a small roadside food stall, selling her own cooking. She knew her future would be challenging and realised that perhaps she would be earning less money but her experience had shown her that living modestly surely had its advantages!




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