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Unemployment could just be a state of the mind

This past weekend, two amazing things happened in Kisumu (at least to me they were). Two journalists organized an art, fashion, photography and entrepreneurship exhibition in Kisumu – they called it #ArtPreneur.

Have you ever thought that human behavior is at times a product of their economic status?

“If we look at some of the things we are known for like violence and stone throwing, we can always deduce a relationship with economic status,” said Vera Okeyo who was one of the organizers of the event while talking about what inspired her to bring the event to Kisumu.

Kisumu and the counties around it are grappling with huge rates of unemployment as young men and women flock the city each year in search of employment. Many of them fail to get any leading to an increase in the number of jobless youths in the cities and towns.

This problem starts at the KCPE level but is more vivid when you look at the number of students who graduate from high schools.

“Of the about 500,000 students who sit KCSE exams each year, only 16% get to join university. Ever wondered about what happens to the remaining 84%?” poses Verah.

A huge percentage of those who do not make it to campus end up with shuttered dreams. That would not be saw if we did not make them believe that they all have to be bankers, lawyers, doctors and teachers. We could get highly paid plumbers, masons, tailors and so on from this lot.

My generation grew up in an environment where you had to be working in an office to be considered successful career-wise. Even if you only made peanuts as a secretary.

We all left campus looking forward to a corner office in some blue-chip company.

Rosemary Odinga (daughter to former PM Raila Odinga) who was the keynote speaker surprised many when she told the crowd that she had to work a casual job in the US to make ends meet.

“People always expect you not to do certain kind of jobs when you come from certain families. Growing up my mother instilled the idea in has that everything in our house was hers and we had to make our own…in the US I worked in house keeping cleaning towels, toilets and bathrooms to make ends meet while attending school.”

Today Rosemary is a proud snail farmer – something most of us would find disgusting. It pays her bills – handsomely if I may add.

Verah thinks that we need to be the change drivers as we move this country into an economy that is driven by blue collar jobs.

“Kenya has since a 40% boom in the real-estate sector over the past 3 years. Today plumbers are in huge demand and they are pretty expensive because after all we don’t have enough plumbers!”

The event was attended by doctors, lawyers, engineers who will play a huge role in impacting attitude change when it comes to blue collar jobs.

My generation are the parents of today. I do not know what my daughter Nadia would want to be when she grows up. Maybe she will want to be a designer, maybe painter, maybe plumber. If we do not change our perception to blue collar jobs then our children will lose on the opportunities to follow their passions – that could even mean unemployment.

The event saw interesting photo exhibitions by Tom Otieno a renown photojournalist, Sandra Ruong’o (also a photojournalist) and joint works by Deryl Aduda & Fiona Maurice who are Kisumu based photographers. But that was not all.

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This is a design by Verah Okeyo. PHOTO: Sandra Ruong’o /Tonny Hill

Phelix Oduor stole our hearts with his amazing story on how he got to doing radio. Not forgetting Zeddy, the Eldoret born fashion designer who sold his sewing machine to get a plane ticket to the US where he hustled his ass off to become a fashion designer working with musicians and movie stars.

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Zeddy, A US based Kenyan designer walks the runway at ArtPreneur. PHOTO: Sandra Ruong’o

Did you know that despite having a degree in Media & Communication Barbara Cynthia Amondi opted to bake cakes – and no she did not begin with a swanky oven. She baked using a charcoal stove. Got her hands dirty. Made money. Bought an electric oven. Today she is one of Kisumu’s renown bakers.


The other interesting thing that happened over the weekend was Market -Millimani ward MCA Edwin Anayo posting a photo of himself selecting his stock of “happy socks” at Kibuye market (Kibuye is Kisumu’s biggest market) for sale. Eddy is a budding entrepreneur. He built his car rental business from scratch. He is launching Kisumu’s first delivery service this week and a taxi hailing app. He is rich by all standards but he can still squat in the sun to personally select socks for sale…nothing his beneath him.

Milimani MCA Edwin Anayo selecting “hapy socks” at Kibuye market for his stock . PHOTO: Courtesy

Now you might look at this as PR and a way of winning the traders’ votes by having them see him as one of their own or you may choose to look at it from my angle where he inspires young people to take on any business as long as it would put food on the table.

So if you are sitting pretty waiting for the corner office with your degree and it’s not coming, why not consider doing something with your hands, getting them a little dirty.

How about you change your attitude towards your fundi, plumber or mechanic…they are not doing a cheap job!

Follow me on Twitter @IamOminde





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