Mbabazi’s unconventional source of income instead of palling her popularity as a young woman has instead brought her instant fame.
She is so famous that her workplace is some sort of landmark in the area. When we are trying to find the place at the centre, the boda boda riders offer to take us to where the “beautiful, light skinned petite girl” works from.
She is not surprised to see us there, she in fact tells me that she has become an inspirational figure at school. “Everyone wants to hear my story at campus, they say it has inspired them to live better lives,” Mbabazi says.
Born to Steven Ssemasaka and Margaret Nagasha, in a family of five raised in Masoli- Gayaza Wakiso district, Mbabazi’s life has always been steeped in abject .
She recalls her early childhood as a time of pain from being rejected by her peers because she came from a peasant family.
“During my kindergarten, children would laugh at my tattered uniform and a lack of break time snacks. No one wanted to sit next to me. I had no friends. Teachers would force them to sit with me but they would complain that I had a bad ordour,” Mbabazi despondently recollects.
Her mother died when she was still an infant, leaving her father to take care of their five children. Sharon says that the dad was unable to take care of the family since his source of income was brick laying, and did not yield much for them.
“Our dad’s income could not take care of all of us. All my sisters dropped out of school. That is when I realised that I needed to make my own money if I had to stay in school,” Mbabazi explains.
So she started laying bricks while in Primary Six. She was paid Shs1,000 for her first bricks which she used to buy herself a new pair of knickers.
“I needed knickers, because the one I had were torn, and my father did not want to know. The only thing he cared about was whether I had what to eat and school fees, so I asked the man who was laying bricks at home if I could lay for him some and he paid me enough to buy two pairs knickers because by then a pair cost Shs500,” Mbabazi relates.
Since her primary school days, Mbabazi has grown both in experience and expectations.
She currently makes 800- 1,000 bricks everyday. The 22-year-old who nurses dreams of becoming a TV or radio presenter uses the income to pay her tuition fees and her upkeep.
Mbabazi who is a student at Muteesa 1 Royal University says brick laying is the only skill she knows and she is not ready to quit it. In fact she is looking for someone who can help her expand her business for more production.
“I won’t leave this job, because it is the one I know, if I get a place which is bigger I can expand my business.” She says.
Mbabazi says she does not have a ready market to sell her bricks. Being a female in a male dominated filed, Mbabazi says her clients always want to take advantage of her.
“Some men come and buy bricks, but it becomes a struggle getting them to pay my full amount. Some make sexual advances when I go to demand payment,” says Mbabazi.
Having done this job for about ten years now, says she has developed back pain and chest pains, which keep popping up when she works a lot. But she says she cannot stop because that is where money comes from.
In spite of her effort, Mbabazi never seems to make enough money to make ends meet.
“I travel 13km to go to campus in Mengo spending at least Shs5,000 on transport alone. Sometimes I find that I do not have transport so I forego school,” she says regretfully.
Geoffrey Kisito-childhood friend
Mbabazi and I grew up together, went to the same school and we are neighbours.
She loves working, she knows that their family is poor, so she makes sure she finds jobs that will raise money. After our Primary Seven, from Wampewo Primary School, we shared ideas of how to make money, and since this was the only job we knew, we decided to join “kirombe” (a common area for brick laying in their area), so that we can get money and fulfill all our plans.
Rosemary Nangawa-course mate
I met Mbabazi in 2016 in our first year at campus, we became friends and even up to date we are, I did not know her job until I saw pictures of her doing brick laying, she later opened up and told me.
Then a month ago, she posted a picture of her bricklaying which generated many comments. Some critising her, but I just told her to not mind about it. She is a girl that loves what she does, when it is time for slaying, she slays and if it is time for working, it is working.