Using predominant forces of tyranny common in olden days, young Samburu warriors raided and rustled the livestock of their Turkana neighbours. Vastly outnumbered and with no male defendants, Alowor Marenya and her mother yielded and 100 of their goats, left behind by Marenya’s dead father, were driven away.
To escape pervasive starvation, Marenya and her mother began a charcoal trade with other women who fell victim to the Samburu raids. The structure of their craft consisted of the younger women observing the techniques used by their mothers and aunts. Marenya and her younger companions got the hang of it and in no time they were the ones equipped with machetes and axes, chopping down trees, burning them in calculatedly dug holes and covering the holes with grass until the chopped trees were transformed into localized versions of charcoal. “I remember our hair catching fire and we would laugh about it,” she said.
Whereas they received enough to get by in most days, Marenya’s mother was weighed down by a lack of stability and looming poverty. Resulting from her arbitrary fear, she subjected her 11-year-old daughter to the afflictions and terror of childhood marriage and pawned her to a 30-year-old man for a paltry 30 goats. Marenya integrated into the horrid life of being a child bride. She was forced to multitask between pleasing her much older husband and carrying on with the charcoal trade. For years, Marenya lived like this until her husband died. As for the charcoal trade, she gave it a break four years ago due to the weakness infused by age.
However, Marenya still finds comfort and security in work. She has cultivated a schedule dividing her days between working odd jobs such as washing clothes and dishes for a certain wage and using that earning as capital to acquire tools such as wires and beads on her free days to make various ornaments including bracelets and necklaces. Refusing to tap out to the battles of life, the 68-year-old has found an individual self fulfillment from her new trade of ornament making earning an estimated Ksh.200 a day. “It’s not much but I push on. Besides I love doing it and when I don’t find customers, I wear them myself,” she said with a contented chuckle.