- Ruth Chelimo plies the Eldoret-Huruma Route
- Traffic officers and Kanju Askaris in the region know her on a personal level.
27-year-old Ruth Chelimo is the real definition of a hustler.
Since her academic journey reached a dead end at form two due to a lack of school fees, she has worked as a house help, a construction worker, a waitress, a tout, and is now a proud matatu driver.
The matatu business in Eldoret is dominated by men, but it’s not easy to pick the mother of three from the crowd.
She is an inspiration to many, admired for her headstrong determination and zeal to make a difference.
Unlike the thousands of drivers in the region, Chelimo, who plied the Eldoret-Huruma route, is always clean and on uniform whenever she is on duty.
Her conductor and other colleagues describe her as a hard-working woman who does her best to put food on the table for her family.
“She came here as a tout but she has been able to be licensed as a driver ahead of me because of rare focus and commitment to achieve her desires in whatever she does,” said Njogu, the conductor of the matatu she drives.
Naturally, Chelimo’s life as a tout has not been easy, but she vowed to do her best to earn a living.
Her schedule starts at 5 pm when she wakes up, up to around 10 pm when she heads home.
She says her male colleagues have been supportive, to the extent that she is now comfortable working with them.
They have stood by her and supported her, making her feel at home in an industry that is infamously constituted of rough and rowdy individuals.
According to Chelimo, most of the challenges she faces in her job emanate from her passengers.
For instance, instead of paying the fare through the provided till number, some insist on sending the money via her personal phone number, and then plague her with calls and messages seeking to date her.
Others insist on sitting next to her in the front seat but behave indecently by touching her.
However, she has learned to ignore them politely and focus on her work.
“I simply laugh and turn the same into jokes,” she told The Star.
Some of these characters become her regular passengers while others shamefacedly seek other matatus after failing to get through with their nefarious plans.
Chelimo credits her success in the three years she has worked in the matatu industry to discipline, respect, and making friends.
She considers everyone a friend and rarely clashes with traffic officers or Kanju Askaris because they know her on a personal level.
Despite the hardships, she says she is still young and energetic and has become used to the odd working hours.
Her bosses are just as impressed with her work.
Although she drives an old matatu, her bosses say she is the only driver who has been able to handle the vehicle, with very few challenges.
Her wish is to one day purchase her own Probox, with which she can do business.
For now, she says the money she earns as a matatu driver is enough to cater for her children, her parents, rent, and other needs.
Her call is for young people to embrace opportunities and work hard without discrimination, which is the only way they will be able to make it in this harsh economy.