Coast twins find lifeline in online writing
Reuben Mwambingu @reubenmwambingu
When a group of youth in Shanzu staged a demonstration to protest being locked out of the second phase of the Kazi Mtaani programme last month, June Mukhwana and her twin sister, Julie Mulongo were busy working in their house.
When they walked out to enquire what the protest was all about, the twins appeared disinterested after learning the youths were clamouring for Kazi Mtaani jobs.
Like millions of Kenyans out there, Mukhwana and Mulongo found themselves at the crossroads as their jobs were affected when the novel coronavirus broke out in Kenya in March.
“I work with Writers Guild, a publishing organisation that deals with various authors.
I landed the job after internship. However, when the pandemic struck the organisation scaled down operations and we were affected,” says Mukhwana.
Mulongo worked for a Mombasa-based company, but in March the company decided to reduce its workforce as a result of the pandemic.
She was among those whose working days were reduced by half.
For the twin sisters, although the pandemic had disrupted their jobs, it was not the end of the road.
They quickly switched to online writing where they created accounts, uploaded CVs and shortly after, job assignments began streaming in.
With their laptops and Internet connectivity, the duo say they started pocketing between Sh700 to Sh2,000 per day, depending on the volume of assignment from the comfort of their home.
Unlike their colleagues in the neighbourhood who were protesting for failing to be included in the Kazi Mtaani programme, Mukhwana and Mulongo have literally actualised the phrase “when life gives you lemon, make lemonade out of it.”
“In the online space there are various platforms that can suit various skills.
So depending on your type of skills, you can create your account to earn a living. For instance there is writing and transcription.
So once you create an account and indicate your skills, you will also get assignments uploaded.
In transcription, we record calls and transcribe them by writing down what we hear.
That is a job that anybody can handle provided you can listen and write,” says Mukhwana, adding that creating an online account is free.
Online writing has become a lucrative avenue for youth to make money with bulk of the working coming from companies based in the largest economies in the world.
However, people living in developing countries in Africa, Eastern Europe and Asia take up most of the jobs in digital platforms.
According to data from the Ajira Digital programme, there are at least 40,000 Kenyans registered on Upwork.
In a 2014 survey of oDesk (now Upwork) Kenya was ranked 10th overall on a list of countries providing workers. I was number one in Africa.
Some of the famous online writing sites in Kenya are iwriter, Upwork, Bloggingpro, Craiglist,Guru and Kuhustle.
During a stakeholders meeting last week in Mombasa ICT innovation and youth affairs Chief Administrative secretary, Nadia Ahmed Abdalla advised youth to embrace the Ajira Digital programme launched by the government in 2016.
And as the world marked the International Youth Day on Wednesday, a day designated by the United Nation to celebrate and mainstream young peoples’ voices, actions and initiatives, as well as their meaningful, universal and equitable engagement, the duo are leading the way in confronting global challenges, particularly unemployment.
For the 22-year-old graduates of Pwani University, writing was never part of their childhood dream.
Mukhwana studied economics while her twin studied Commerce and financing.
With the qualifications, the two can work in the banking sector, but when job opportunities became elusive, they opted for writing.
Under the current Covid-19 situation, they say their shift starts in the morning.
Their first task, even before taking breakfast, is usually to log in to their platforms and check for any available assignments to accomplish.
“If we find assignments we begin working on them immediately as we also prepare breakfast. In this online job you have to be good at multi-tasking.
By around 11am we are usually done with the assignments, and then I get time to scan around and research because I also need to familiarise myself with what is going on around the world,” Mulongo says.
For Mulongo, even though she is an accountant, online writing and editing has become her lifeline.
“I have an account with Kenya Writers and also transcriptions, which is helping me pay my bills.
This means that even though my work was scaled down by half, I have not felt the pinch.
At the moment it’s still challenging because companies are firing workers, but I know writing will cushion me,” she says.
However, they are a few challenges they have to contend with. When an assignment is on a topic that is new to them they have to research widely
“But during this period most of the assignments come on topics about Small and Micro Enterprises (SMEs) and the economy and how they have been affected by Covid-19.
So I go out and do my research so that when I write my piece is original. Plagiarism isn’t entertained in this industry,” says Mulongo.