Diary of a Woman in Mathare

Woman Washing Clothes in Eastleigh, Nairobi


A woman washing clothes for a customer in Eastleigh in Nairobi

Cellestine Achieng is a single mother of four children and aged 24 years. She lost her husband through a tragic road accident. She has decided to raise all her children by herself despite the hardship associated with single parenthood. She wakes up very early so that her children can get something to eat. Her main pre-occupation is food and shelter for children. She considers education as primary amongst her main needs. She prays that her children will not fall sick because she cannot afford to pay any medical bills.

She earns her daily income through washing clothes for mainly Somali, Ethiopian and Eritrean families in Eastleigh. Every morning she joins more than 200 other women from Mathare who troop Eastleigh in search for her kind of job. Occasional she encouters abusive employers who do not value her work.

According to her, getting a job depends on luck as there are so many women looking for similar job opportunities. Most of them are single mothers with small children.  She is paid Shs. 100 – 200 on a good day (1 – 2 Euros per day). On bad day like when there is no water, the employer for the day gives money to pay water. If don’t find water then you will not be paid as you have not washed the clothes.

Daily Diary

Wake up: 5.00 am
Pray 5.00 am – 5.15 am
Breakfast: 5.15 am – 6.15 am
Take children to baby-day care / school 6.20 am
Walk to Eastleigh 6.20 am – 7.00 am
Washing clothes 8.00 am – 12.00 pm
Gets Paid 2.00 pm
Heads back 2.25 pm – 3 pm
Picks children from baby-day care / school 3.30 pm
Wash children 5.30 pm – 6.pm
Prepares super 6.30 pm – 7.30 pm
Wash family clothes 8.00 pm – 9.00 pm
Sleep 10.00 pm – 5.00 am

The Daily Budget for five people

Food (lunch/super) 70/-
Breakfast 35/-
Merry-go-round contribution 20/-
Baby day-care 20/-
Snacks 15/-
Education 15/-
Saves for rent 25/-

Cellestine has to work 6 days a week. She can not afford to fall sick or get paid less as she will run into debts. On a bad day, she has to work for two families so as to raise her income to 200/- per day. She prays every morning for her family’s health and protection. To her, life revolves around work and taking care of her children. – Simon


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