Articles

‘Not yet uhuru’ for women at workplace.

Illustration By Kiti Chigiri

Article By Habiba Wakio

Munira dropped the empty box on the floor and took one long look at her cubicle. It ceased to be hers a few minutes before when her work got terminated. She was only here to pack up and leave. The office had been her querencia and working on numbers had taken her mind off unpleasant thoughts. She had spent two years serving the company and was surprised that they could toss her out as if she had never meant anything to them. The old files stashed away in her drawer reminded her of all the hours she had put into accounting for the company’s finances. No one could beat her to the task. She took her handkerchief and blew her nose.

This was the third time she had gone against the wishes of her boss. First, she had refused his advances then she had refused to sign for deliveries that weren’t made on two occasions. Her conscience could not allow her to do anything unethical at work and that had vexed her boss. This morning, upon arriving at work, her boss had demanded to know why she had made such a huge transfer of the company funds to her account. She had  no explanation for that. She got fired.

Swaleh hobbled in when she was halfway through packing, a frown on his cute clean-shaven face. His leg was not completely healed, but he had assured her that the pain was fading away. He had requested to be transferred to this branch which was close to his home after recovering from his accident. He and Munira had hit it off immediately.

“Don’t give me that look,” she said swallowing past the lump in her throat. “You look more handsome with a smile on like this.” She demonstrated, plastering a smile on her bright chubby face. “Besides, am not leaving planet earth so please don’t mourn.”

He moved towards her swiftly and took her hands in his. “This place won’t be the same without you, Muni.”

“Don’t worry. Someone better would come along.”

Shaking his head firmly, he pushed her seat towards her and motioned for her to sit. “Not in a million years.” He sat on the edge of her desk and leaned towards her. “No one compares to you. That’s why you’re my best friend.”

Munira sniffed and batted her eyelashes as tears formed in her eyes. “I’ll miss all your cranky jokes and your special sandwiches.”

“Aha. I knew it. You only befriended me because of my sandwiches. Not to worry. I’ll give you the recipe, so you won’t miss me too much.”

Swaleh began helping Munira, but she asked him to leave, afraid that he would get into trouble with the boss. The clock struck ten and he smirked. It was time for tea break.

“You can’t send me away now.”

She rolled her eyes and began putting her personal stuff in her bag. She noticed the half-eaten bread and tea on her desk and thought of how to get rid of it when a petite exuberant lady came in, pointing towards it.

“Can I finish this for you?” Amina asked.

Munira nodded. Amina smiled and mumbled her thanks. She was straightforward, always calling a spade a spade. She would let you know if she liked you or not. She never bottled up her feelings.

“Aren’t you sad Muni’s leaving us?” Swaleh asked.

Amina munched on her bread then swallowed before speaking up. “Muni is intelligent, diligent and efficient. Any company would employ her. Unlike me, who only got hired because my uncle runs this company.”

“Mina…”

“It’s true. Everyone is aware that I joined the company without having any prior experience. Mom spoke to her brother, and he agreed to train me.”

That was something else about her. She was born with a silver spoon. Lucky her! She even got herself a good man.

“Mina, you are an enthusiastic fast learner who is quite productive. That is what matters the most,” Munira told her.

“Well, am glad my fiancee is working, even if it is just for a while,” remarked Swaleh, flashing Amina a toothy grin.

He had proposed to her two months after she had joined the company. Soon she would have to leave the company to stay inside her home as she awaits her wedding day.

Returning his grin, Amina said, “Me too. I get to see you every single day.” Then she faced Munira, a small smile on her fair face. “Muni, you’re my best friend too. Mostly because you did not steal my man when you had the chance. Any other woman would have grabbed the opportunity to date this fine young man.” She laughed when she saw the serious look on Swaleh’s face. “Am just kidding.”

Amina cut the cake she had brought into slices and invited Munira to have a bite. Munira picked a piece and nibbled at it. She almost forgot her predicament as she watched Amina and Swaleh having a laugh as they took turns smearing each other’s faces with the frosting. Her eyes darted to her leather chair and reality struck her. She had lost her only source of earning income right after learning about the rent hike. She was not looking forward to breaking the devastating news to her younger sister who was excited to pursue a degree in medicine in two months’ time. How could she shatter Nafisa’s dream? She had promised her mother that she would take good care of her sister, but she was about to hurt the only family she had left.

Sighing heavily, she opened her drawer and took her remaining personal belongings, shifting the couple’s attention back to her. Swaleh went to her side and squeezed her hand.

“Don’t worry,” Amina said. “Things will work out the way they are supposed to.”

Munira crumpled the unwanted papers in a fist and dumped them in the dustbin. She gave her office one last sweep with her eyes before stepping out, her bag hugged to her chest. This office had been her second home. The place she had spent most of her days, arriving very early and leaving late. She always looked forward to the productive hours spent behind her desk. She could not believe it was all over. On her way out, she tried to avoid her colleagues’ stares, but could not help noticing that some were smiling, a few seemed sad while others looked indifferent. She knew that her position would soon be filled by one of those who had been eyeing it.

She cried all the way home. Her sister was preparing lunch when she arrived. She said she would not have lunch because she was feeling unwell and went to her room. During supper, a concerned Nafisa wanted to know how her sister was feeling. Munira told her not to worry because she had taken a few days off work to recuperate. Munira spent the next few days sending application letters to various banks and companies. She wore a blissful smile and jumped in ecstasy when she received a message to attend an interview. She was among the first to arrive. When her turn came, she went in confidently.

A few minutes later, she was out of the building, furious at the interviewer. The man had proposed sexual favours in exchange for a post at the company. How shallow! The next interviews she attended were not successful. Almost all the interviewers demanded to know why she had left such a big company. At the last place she visited, she was offered the position of a messenger since all the other posts were filled. Weary, she went home, locked herself in her room and let out the tears she had been holding back.

It was not long before Nafisa confronted her. She had visited Munira’s office and discovered that she no longer worked there. Cornered, Munira said the truth.

“Am sorry,” said Nafisa, enveloping her sister in a hug. “I was surprised to see Amina in your office. It seemed like you trained her so that she may take your place at one point.”

“That was not the plan, but we cannot change what has happened. I’ll keep looking for another job.”

Munira’s phone rang. It was Amina. She answered on the second ring. She was smiling when the call ended.

“What did she tell you?” Nafisa wanted to know. “Is the company taking you back?”

“No, but she has recommended me to a film director after showing him the few short films I did in the past. Am waiting for her to send me his number.”

“Oh. I’ll ask my friends if they know of any job vacancies then let you know.”

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