Meet Juliah Awuor, the single mom behind #ILostMyJob and #SinaJobKE

You could lose your job at anytime, this is Kenya

#YouthMtaani: Juliah Awuor advocating for a generation of unemployed youth in Kenya

Living in Kenya is quickly becoming a game of chances where the odds are ever skewed against the young, the educated and the striving.

Unemployment has been an issue since time immemorial and things seem to be getting worse for the youth in Kenya.

Kenya’s youth unemployment situation is particularly serious. For instance, in the period 1998-2005, aggregate unemployment fell from 15% to 12.5%, but the share of the youth in unemployment rose from 60% to 72 %. And the rate of joblessness is almost 40% of youth, or an estimated 5.2 million young adults. This is double the adult average of 21 percent, part of a World Bank report reads.

This writer is a newly wed, only been married for a year, and 2019 easily takes the prize for ‘Worst Year’. Just a few short months into our marriage, my husband lost his job and as I’ve watched him strive to get another one, it has hit me how bad things are in Kenya.

Juliah Awuor, a graduate

On October 3, 2019 as I scrolled through Twitter I noticed a trending hashtag that really struck a nerve with me, #ILostMyJob.

Knowing what losing a job had done to my own little infant family, I took time and scrolled through it reading stories shared and finding Juliah Awuor who initiated the hashtag.

“I graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Food Science, Nutrition & Dietetics and I have been working in Customer Service for the last three years. I had a job, an awesome job that enabled me to survive. And am forever grateful to my employer, they have been amazing.

“One thing I have learnt, it is never about money but your peace of mind and that is what I and my colleagues were offered. That is all that matters,” Juliah says as she describes her new reality.

Juliah admits that she is only one out of countless friends, family and the youth of Kenya who have been and will continue to be affected by rampant job cuts that are creeping through various companies in Kenya.

“The management had to tell us what has been the inevitable for the last 3 months - the centre can no longer hold. They will no longer be able to sustain us, because for the last 3 months we have been non-operational but we still came to work.

“I was heartbroken, I think I still had hopes that we would be fine but when we were handed the termination letters that was just it. I and the rest of my colleagues realized it is over and there is nothing we can do about it,” she recounts her last days at work.

Why are we so silent?

While Juliah requested to withhold the name of her previous employer, media reports so far have indicated that over 12 companies have let go of hundreds of staff members in less than four months.

Some of the major layoffs include Mobicom, Telkom, EAPCC, Betin, Sportpesa, Stanbic Bank, Choppies, Adela, EABL, Mediamax, Eveready East Africa among others. Altogether these and other companies have rendered over 13,000 jobless.

“I started the hashtag #ILostMyJob because recently so many of my pals and family have lost their jobs and I got mad and devastated. Why are we so silent about it when it is all of us who are undergoing through this hard moments?

“Then I thought I should share my story on behalf of everyone who is in my shoe, then they can as well share and as Kenyans we need to wake up and smell the coffee. I’m hoping the government will realize there is a problem and they do need to come up with a way forward. What will happen to my colleagues and everyone else who has lost a job? This is for the jobless, those who have been retrenched and those who are in business and it is bad,” she tells this writer when I asked about her online initiative.

What is at stake?

Juliah recently organized a march within Nairobi CBD where the jobless of Kenya had an opportunity to come out and raise awareness of the growing pains of being unemployed in Kenya.

For Juliah, her son and a nanny she hired to help her out, were the immediate casualties of her job loss.

“I have been jobless before and I never thought I would be out on the streets this soon. I am a mother, a single one for that matter, so what happens to us? My son’s fees, my nanny (it means I will have to release her), rent and just daily survival. Like I mentioned, this happened to me before and it was so hard, I just cannot believe it.

“We still have people with families and are going through the same, I know it is difficult for everyone. I remember back in 2012, we used to apply for jobs and we would get interviews then pick the best (offer) out of it but today...ask anyone...they do not even send regrets. What really happened, what changed?” a despondent Juliah questions.

This writer doesn’t have to ask, I lived through it. My husband would get interviews here and there and for close to a year no offer came through.

Just two weeks ago he was lucky enough to be called back and he has started his new job.

“What is next for you?” I ask Juliah. She responds: “I’m not really sure, still trying to absorb all this hoping I will wake up from a bad dream. The unfortunate thing is, I cannot take long in this because I’m a mother and I have to think fast. I will do the best I can that is all I know. All am asking is for the government to just do something about this, save us for the sake of this nation, families and children.”

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