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Tuesday, October 3, 2023

I Chose Shoe Making Because I Get Fascinated About Footwear – Sharon Ijuolachi



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From Ede Helen – Abakaliki

Sharon Ijuolachi aka Ada Ebonyi is a female Shoe maker, from Ebonyi state. A graduate of Ebonyi State University, EBSU, Department of Educational Administration & Planning. In this interview, she reveals her experience as a “Shoe Maker“. Excerpts:

Before now people see this as men’s profession, what motivated you into it, when there are other skills for women to pick from? 
My name is Sharon Ijuolachi Akpa, a lot of people know me as Ada ebonyi. So, I think I started doing shoe making at NYSC camp. While in camp you’re told to do SAED, you go for SAED training. So while I was there I said to myself, “what will I do in this camp, what will I do that is not saturated?” I said OK, let me go into shoe making, a lot of people are going into hair dressing, tailoring etc. I decided to go to the shoe making stand, when I got there, it was fascinating for me. And another reason why I chose shoe making is that whenever I see someone, the first place I look at, is his/her feet to see the kind of foot wear he/she is wearing. I’m fascinated about  foot wears. So when I did that training at NYSC camp, I came out 2017, you know during your service year you still have to do that SAED training, so that while you’re serving the country, you already have a skill. So I went ahead to register under a shoe maker, I served  in Oyo town but I learnt the shoe making in Ibadan. So I had to juggle between service and travelling to Ibadan for the shoe training, so after the training I came back to Ebonyi and started working.

Sharon Ijuolachi aka Ada Ebonyi is a female Shoe maker, from Ebonyi state. A graduate of Ebonyi State University, EBSU, Department of Educational Administration & Planning.
Sharon Ijuolachi teaching her students Shoemaking

How has it been, working as a Female Shoemaker, any discrimination from people?
Well even if somebody had done that, the love I get outweighs the criticism. I won’t say nobody has done that, I remember vividly one or two persons said that, i left a lucrative job somewhere to come and be doing dustbin work (shoe making). And that person is a supposed friend, it actually hurt me. But looking back at when I started this work, when I came back from service in 2018 and started the work gradually, its been love and massive support from a lot of people. When they see me, they want to encourage me. The love is more than the discrimination.

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What course did you study?
I studied Educational Administration and planning.

What actually prompted you leaving your profession for shoe making, is it that shoe making is very lucrative? 
Well, its a profession, once you have passion for something, you’ll always pursue it. After learning, I think I had developed passion for it, passion of building from scratch to finish. You know there’s this kind of joy you derive when you see a piece of leather lying around, you couple it and it becomes a nice footwear/shoe and someone is now wearing it. I still have the zeal to practice my field of study, to become a lecturer. As I came back from service, I can’t just become a lecturer instantly, I need to fund myself because I wish to go for Masters program. So I started with my shoemaking work, hoping to go for my Masters. I got admission for my Masters and started schooling, but then the stress became too much, I couldn’t cope doing my work and Masters in school, so I opted to continue my work till I have capable workers then I’ll go back to school to pursue my Masters and become a lecturer. But no matter what I do, I’ll still be a shoe maker.

Sharon Ijuolachi aka Ada Ebonyi is a female Shoe maker, from Ebonyi state. A graduate of Ebonyi State University, EBSU, Department of Educational Administration & Planning.
Sharon Ijuolachi aka Ada Ebonyi is a female Shoe maker, from Ebonyi state. A graduate of Ebonyi State University, EBSU, Department of Educational Administration & Planning.

Since 2017 till now, what is your impact in the profession? 
I think I’ve made a lot of impact in the lives of people, currently I have aside from my shop when I came back I started working under different people in their shops. I worked for 4 people because I could not afford  getting a shop for myself, and when I was able to save up I got my own shop which I’m still using uptil now. I’m working to build a school of leather works (not built), get a school, building is from scratch. I have a school of leather works where I currently have close to 30 students that come to learn from me. I think that is an impact, in places like Ebonyi where people see us and say we cannot amount to anything tangible, we are just labourers that go to other states to work. People see me and they are inspired to send their children, I think I have more girls than boys, so this work that people feel is not for females, when they see me doing it, they’re encouraged that their daughters can do it and they can also do it. I’m an inspiration to a lot of people, and they now come to me, some go to other places, but I’m still glad that because of me they now do something that is different from what other people are doing. They’re now doing something originally meant for male and they’re excelling in it. So I believe I’ve been able to create that impact in the lives of people, many women in Ebonyi State. I’m above 30 and single.

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Advise for the youths, upon graduation no job, and been idle has resulted to increase in crime rates? 
Everyone cannot learn a skill, skill is passion, it will be like I’m over riching when I say go and learn a skill. But my advise is if you have passion for a skill, learn it, look into your self, look for what you have passion for. If your passion is white collar job and you’re there, you should strive to excel and go for upgrading. Even if you have a white collar job and you see that you love making people’s hair, you love seeing women wearing good clothes go for it, that’s a side hustle, so my advice is that people should get side hustle. In our country now, we don’t depend on one source of income even if its not skill, when you’re doing your job you can learn tech, you can be in your home working from one job or other remote jobs, so look for other source of income not just one source of income.

How lucrative is this shoe making job? 
Its lucrative according to my standard and one of the advantage of shoemaking, you don’t need much to start up. I think after learning basically shoemaking, you may not need up to #50,000 naira as you can startup even in your home. As long as you have the talent, little space, internet connection and people that will patronize you. Shoemaking doesn’t need much heavy equipment to startup.

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