On the outskirts of Kampala is Masooli Village in Gayaza division. From the onset, the place does not promise much save for the rush-hour activity that has come characterise peri-urban neighbourhoods.
Inside this village though is a story that has challenged feminists and chauvinists alike. A story of Sharon Mbabazi, a third-year Journalism student of Muteesa I Royal University who recently broke the internet with the most classic occupation duality.
Mbabazi demonstrated how thin the line is between being a chips and chicken consuming campuser with fake polished nails and eyelashes and getting dirty to genuinely sweat for the money necessary to lead a good life.
She does this by undertaking an occupation that since the African Traditional Society days has been associated with men – bricklaying. In an interview with Matooke Republic, Mbabazi says she started to admire the activity as early as 2005 when she was in Primary Three. This was when she and her father, Steven Ssemasaka – an expert bricklayer himself – started to engage in the business at a commercial scale.
“It rubbed off on me and I realised that I did not need anything extra to do it. So I started doing myself to raise tuition and take my siblings to school,” she said.
No country for lazy women Although she is pursuing a career in journalism, a largely blue-collar profession, Mbabazi says she does not find anything more fulfilling than being in the mud molding bricks that turn into tangible structures and give people descent livelihoods.
“There is no other job that satisfies my needs even if it pays me a lot more. The feeling that people are sleeping well because of your work just gives me the courage that I’m doing something good for society,” she says.
Mbabazi notes that although her friends both at school and her social circles try to discourage her against her work, she rubs them aside tactfully. In her mind, there is nothing a man can do that a woman is incapable of doing.
Indeed, when her story hit the internet webs recently, most were amused at a young, seemingly educated, upbeat engaging in a blue-collar activity dominated by less privileged proletariats in the rural areas.
In her own words, Mbabazi says she knows what she wants and is not ashamed of what she does as long as she earns a living.
“Most girls in my age bracket do a lot worse than what I do to get money from men. Money doesn’t come on a silver platter, we all have to put it the work only that mine is passion driven and there is material driven.”
Mbabazi posits that there’s no country for lazy women and nothing comes easy in life. To be fully independent – a goal she has been working towards since childhood – she needed to learn how to be self-reliant and bricklaying gave her the much-needed opportunity to unleash her potential.
Contrary to her pronounced Facebook presence, Mbabazi is reserved in person. One would right to say that her social media profile is an impersonation of her real self but as she admits, she lets her work do the talking.
Having lost her mother when she was just an infant, Mbabazi – the third born of five children – learnt to fend not just herself but also for her siblings. For this reason, she has set her sights on not only keeping on with the family business but also expanding her package to include concrete made bricks.
Mbabazi answers this question with a beaming smile on her face. Laying bricks has seen her through all her three years at university and enabling her family to enjoy a decent living.
“How much I earn really depends on how many bricks I lay but in a period of six months, I get around Shs10million,” she said.
Mbabazi’s earnings average a monthly Shs1.5m which is much more than several white collar jobs are currently paying especially if she considered a career in the journalism profession.
Her greatest motivation is the desire to prove that women are no lesser than their male counterparts and the conviction that her late mother is proud of the woman she has become.
Mbabazi has some wise words for young girls who only sit around and expect to get it easy.
“That money you ‘de-tooth’ will be the death of you. You’ll get a disease or pregnant, drop out of school or even die. Be content with what you have and focus on working hard not begging,” she says.