Mary the Mechanic
If you met Mary Mwanza in her local village, you would immediately recognize that she is a young woman who is passionate about her family, her education, and her work. In addition to the daily work of raising a family, Mary also leads a group of youth in developing their gardening skills and sells her own vegetables at market. When her hard work and leadership qualities quickly became evident to Africare, she was selected for World Bicycle Relief’s Field Mechanic Training Program.
That was six months ago. Now, Mary is a successful bike mechanic in her village.
Mary, 22, has now completed 9th grade where she most enjoyed mathematics and art. She comes from a family of eight and is married with two children, Betty and Joseph. When asked what her most prized possession is, Mary proclaimed, “Family is what I treasure most.” She was pregnant with her second child when she started her bicycle mechanic training.
Mary says, “The bicycle program has really helped me because from some profit I am able to buy food for my family. I want the bicycle program to prosper so I can have more earning from the same program and serve the community at large.”
She has many clients who are coming to the village to service their bicycles. Mary explained that she plans to grow her business by advertising with the local radio station. She wants people to get to know her because she has “good qualities, good servicing skills – very good.”
Mary tells us that she enjoys the job very much because she is making money. Mary keeps a cashbook where she notes the date of transaction, cash in, cash out and balance. She says, “It is the one way of knowing if really you are progressing or maybe you are making a loss.” Changing spokes, greasing and changing bearings are Mary’s most common repairs.
We could not help but ask her about being a woman in a position generally held by men. She told us, “Yeah, a lot of people admire my work, because in this village, it is something new for a female or maybe a lady to do bicycle servicing. So they get interested in that. Hence they bring a lot of bicycles to see or maybe to prove if at all I can really do it. To test me!” But has this been good for business? She laughed, “Very good.”