Critical as it is for many households, the domestic workers industry doesn’t have formal training facility. Services of the so-called domestic assistants have become a basic need of sort, yet most of these domestic workers are not equipped with the necessary skills on matters key issues like cooking, interpersonal relations and proper hygiene.
The closest training is Utalii College, but it focuses only on cooking, ignoring other important domestic aspects and its graduates are prepared for the hospitality industry including hotels and restaurants.
As career couple, Joseph Gichunge and his wife Leah Imaita encountered challenges with their house helps after the birth of their firstborn child. “We kept on changing them in the hope of getting a better one,” says Joseph, “Soon through interaction with some of their friends, we realized that our problems were not an exception. The dissatisfaction was mutual.”
To get a solution to many parents, the couple created Jaza Centre, an employee leasing agency focusing on domestic servants. Joseph is a marketer by profession who has worked with different companies including his own. Leah, on the other hand, is an engineer by profession. They both resigned and together co-founded Jaza Centre.
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Jaza Centre began operation in 2013. Jaza, Swahili word for fill up, has a vision of filling domestic assistants with knowledge and skills necessary to or this profession. Here nannies, cooks, gardeners, office tea-girls and office assistants go through two-three weeks training by seasoned professionals.
The company offers backup to guarantee continuous service provision. “If, for instance, your house help gets sick or goes on leave we offer a replacement to ensure your life and schedule go on undisrupted,” says Joseph. “We also have supervisors who undertake regular check-ups to ensure both the client and employee are satisfied. In cases of a conflict between Jaza assistants and our client we intervene and settle the matter amicably.”
Since 2013, the company’s prospects have rapidly expanded He recalls the first month gross profit was Ksh30,000 and now raking in over Ksh1.5 million a month. From two partners and an assistant, Jaza Centre now has 11 employees.
Leah says the client base has grown since then from 20 to over 200. The firm can train up to 100 people a month and since its inception it has trained more than 1,000.
“Currently our training capacity is strained because the demand is high, with over 100 enquiries in a single month. We are only meeting like 20% of the demand,” she says, adding that plans are under way to expand.
Joseph says at the start they had difficulties finding perfect premises to operate from. “We operated from our house before getting into rented offices,” he says. At some point, they were evicted due to delays in paying rent.
Cash flow issues have posed a challenge too. “You see, commercial banks demand collateral to issue loans, and charge exorbitant interest rates or sometimes when clients don’t pay in time, we feel the strain,” he says.
Another challenge is recruiting the right people. A lot of people go for domestic work as the last resort. “But just like any other work commitment is needed. So we make sure those we train are of exemplary character but it’s not easy to get them.”
Jaza Centre has partnered with an international organisation to inject more funds for expansion and offer advanced training and facilities. “We aspire to be the best training centre in the entire Africa in a few years to come,” he says
He says domestic service is formal employment like any other. Jaza Centre has thus set up a saving plan with NSSF so the workers keep aside money for retirement.
The company has formed a Sacco to enable domestic assistants under their umbrella to save and borrow to cater for personal emergencies and in the long run achieve financial independence.
The couple agrees on this attribute that has been critical to their success: “Yes we are in business , but at Jaza Center our success is measured by the number of lives we touch.”