Casket snip

A casket (not among made by Njeri at her workshop). Most businesses in Kenya that involve handling the dead are run by men. (Photo/Google).

By Lorna Abuga

While most women are still shying away from stigmatized jobs such as handling the dead, a mother in Nakuru has defied all odds to make caskets so as to make a living.

“Working here has been fruitful for me since I do not have to beg to earn a living. All I do is designing and making caskets that I finally sell,”
says Joyce Njeri who has been running Kay Man Workshop, a casket making business next to the Nakuru referral hospital for the last five years.
Njeri had previously been running a boutique in Nakuru town before she decided to start the casket business.
“I closed my boutique because I was not making much to support my family. Since I had developed some interest in this job. I had to be trained for three years in order to perfect my designing and carpentry skills,” she said.
Njeri normally designs at least three caskets in a day which, she says are paid depending on the quality of the materials used. Other jobs that arise during the day at the workshop include making clutches for the physically challenged people.
“I charge between Sh3,000 to 10,000 for the general caskets while for classic ones the charges go up to Sh30,000 per casket.”
Like any other business Njeri says that casket business has its low and high seasons. All this depends on the number of deaths reported at the Nakuru hospital which majorly determines her customers.
“During the peak season, I have to make more caskets so as to meet the demand of the customers by ensuring that ready made caskets are always in stock,” she said.
She claims that her services are always needed despite the way people stigmatize the career.
“People tend to forget that we are just taking good care and giving a decent send off to our beloved.”
“It is just normal daily work; there are no evil spirits involved here or fights. Through the earnings I get, I have been able to provide for my families and this has boosted my living standards,”
she added without disclosing how much she makes in a month.
Njeri explains that the most challenging time is when people passing near the workshop hail abuses to her claiming that she perhaps always longs for people to die so as to make money out of her caskets making business.
“Whether we make them or not people will continue dying for one reason or the other and therefore the community should not think that we pray for people to die so as to make a living.”
The mother of five is grateful to her family for
“relentlessly given me moral support which has helped me overcome the stigma associated with my job”
and she now hopes to expand the business in order to cater for the demand of her customers which she says is rising day after day.