A female mechanic works on a car engine in Bungoma, Kenya.

Rose Luturian trained as a mechanic through the USAID Youth Power and Kenya Youth Employment and Skills (K-YES) program. This photo of Rose hard at work on a car engine at a shop in Bungoma, Kenya, won the 2020 Youth Power photo contest. Photo by Silvano Ateka

Bungoma is a small but lively town in Western Kenya. On the outskirts of town, a busy garage hosts an array of workers helping with everyday automobile needs, such as tire repair, oiling parts, assembling, etc. In this male-dominated industry, a local woman has gained recognition as a hard-working and very skilled auto mechanic.

Rose Luturian, 33, dropped out of school in order to focus on her role as a wife, mother, and homemaker. Through the USAID Youth Power IDIQ and the Kenya Youth Employment and Skills (K-YES) Task Order, Rose changed her story. A three-month competency-based training program, offered at the same garage where Rose is now employed, inspired her to try something new and become a mechanic. Her decision to resume her education surprised and confused her family and friends.

“They could not understand why I was going back to class to pursue a mechanical course they thought was a preserve for the male gender,” she recollects. “They believed I was crazy.” 

Her exemplary performance led to a job offer from the garage. Her enthusiasm and client feedback helped her family understand and respect Rose’s decision to participate in the program. Word spread quickly in the community of a “lady mechanic” excelling in a field dominated by men.

The K-YES Program’s Behavior Change Communications Strategy sought to demystify negative perceptions toward vocational training and blue-collar jobs. Rose’s success in the program empowered her to utilize her new reputation in Bungoma town to motivate and inspire others. She was the only female mechanic working in the garage—now there is another. The busy garage on the edge of Bungoma town now employs two vibrant and skilled female mechanics who continue to inspire others.

“As a result of her passion in the trade, our facility has seen 70 percent overall increase in enrollment and 80 percent rise of potential students of female gender seeking to pursue mechanics course,” said David Masinde, her mentor and garage instructor. 

The photo featured above was selected as the winner of the 2020 Youth Power photo contest. It was taken by Silvano Ateka and features Rose hard at work on an automobile.

Program interventions through K-YES have seen nearly 97,000 youth across the country access training to improve employment skills, over 49,000 access new or better jobs, and roughly 19,000 access loans to start or expand businesses.

“Using savings made from my earnings, I intend to open my own garage one day,” Rose said. 
Investment in vocational training and jobs is bound to help curb the current youth unemployment rate which stands at 26 percent in Kenya. It is also bound to help countries achieve on the global stage.