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Women thriving in male dominated business

Women thriving in male dominated business

- The female folks have recently embraced male-dominated professions at an alarming rate

- recently met with two women who took us through their world in a business dominated by men

- The women are shattering barriers and breaking free into various fields without compromising their roles as wives and mothers

From time immemorial, all great and tedious jobs belonged to men because they are believed to be superior to women, but this trend is fast changing as women are slowly proving to the world that they can excel in all fields.

The male-dominated fields have women ranking highly these days, and they continue to succeed in fields that suit their natural predispositions. The natural abilities women possess in their own way makes them superior in their jobs which reflects in their performances.

Around us, women are shattering barriers and breaking free into fields like finance, health, engineering, commercial driving among many others, without compromising their roles as housewives and mothers.

Even though they are able to combine both work and personal life, most of these women are also giving the male colleagues a run for their money.

Ajanaku, an experienced female tricycle rider at Ogba, Lagos. Source: Esther Odili

Ajanaku, an experienced female tricycle rider at Ogba, Lagos. Source: Esther Odili took a recent tour of Lagos to check out some women in male-dominated businesses and discovered two of them; a female tricyclist and a female cobbler. They both narrated their experiences, their challenges and the successes recorded in the business.

Female tricyclist identified simply as Busayo Ajanaku takes us into her world of riding keke her first experience, the challenges and success recorded.

Ajanaku is a fashion designer, a skill she acquired while she was unable to conclude her basic education due to financial difficulties. After acquiring this skill, she went further to practice and as well own a shop of her own, a workshop where she makes clothes for men and women.

Married with four kids, Ajanaku was introduced to the new business by her childhood friend who was able to convince her and as well assist her in understanding the business. After much conviction, she took interest and dumped her fashion designing business, a decision she has never regretted.

In her words, the 42-year-old rider said: “I was in the shop on a fateful day, when my friend came and said she wants to ride “keke marwa” because it is lucrative and convenient. I then told her am also interested. She was able to convince me that the capital I need is little and that was how we teamed up and set out for a trainer who trained us on how to ride the tricycle, this was how I joined the business.

The Oyo state born rider, explained the process of learning the business, the amount she spent and the duration.

“I learnt driving for two – weeks. And I paid N5,000. After acquiring the skills, my boss (trainer ) bought a tricycle for me and gave it to me on lease (hire purchase), with this I deliver N15,000 weekly but by God’s grace I meet up to the amount and am satisfied”.

With over three years’ experience, plying the Ojodu – Berger road in Lagos State, she narrates her first experience as a female rider on the busy road.

“When I started, the sight of truck drivers on the road scares and male colleagues threatens me, also bus drivers. I rode at Akute but business was dull over there and I complained to my friend who then advised me to come to Ojodu – Berger. I heed to her advice.

“But my first time riding along the road at Berger was fearful because the passenger and I hit the culvert due to fear of the truck that was behind me and we fell into the gutter. But after this experience, I no longer fear the truck drivers and it has been smooth and convenient riding along this road.

"For me, I was determined and focus when I started the business; I enjoy it, because I really do not have any problem doing it at my own time, period and day.”

Tricycle has become a lucrative business for women according to Ajanaku, a female tricycle rider in Lagos. Source: Esther Odili.

Tricycle has become a lucrative business for women according to Ajanaku, a female tricycle rider in Lagos. Source: Esther Odili.

Meanwhile there is no job without its hazards but the ability to scale through makes one a winner.

According to her, insults and harassment is one thing that comes along with this business.

“The problem I had in this business when I started newly was miscreants (Area boys), policemen, the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) officials and as well union workers who usually threaten me most times when I started newly. But due to my boldness and courage I was able to overcome them as I never gave in to their threats. I was never intimidated, but now that they have been used to me, seeing me frequently plying the road, we now relate well,” she said.

When asked how profitable the business is, she said: “The first keke marwa I rode gives me problem daily because it was a fairly used one. So my boss advised me to get a brand new marwa, which I did and is the one am riding presently, I make good money from it. The business is very profitable. I make N5,000 to N7,000 daily and this is irrespective of the time I come out to operate and when I close for day.”

One interesting part of the business is the convenience attached to the duty as one gets to decide the frequency and duration of when to operate.

“I do not have a fixed time I operate (resume duty), sometime I resume by 10:00am in the morning and close by 6:00pm in the evening so as to take care of my children. Because their well-being is my utmost priority, despite this I still make my money.I choose the time i operate and i do it at my own convenience but this does not affect my income per day and as well my delivery fee per week.

“With this, the profit I realize from this business is what I use to cater for the needs of the kids I have for my late husband. And as it is now, even my new husband does not provide my needs; this is why I put more efforts in my quest for survival.

“Right now, I don’t make savings because of the delivery fee I pay every week and when am done with the payment, I will begin to save and hopefully purchase my own tricycle and as well build my own house and stand firmly for my children. All this and more, I hope to achieve,” she prayed.

Advising other women to be independent and supportive in their homes, Ajanaku said: “If you have a strong – mind, determination and be independent as a woman, you can do this business so as to support your partner financially and take good care of yourself too.”

She thereby made a plea to the government on the expansion of roads and those in authority to deal with them carefully.

“The government should encourage us the more by expanding our roads here and most importantly, the police officials should have a soft spot on us especially the Area – G officials, they should show us mercy. Aside this, we don’t have any problem or challenge confronting us.”

When you see a woman making shoes and as well repair, the first question that comes to your mind is; can she do it well? And the answer is Yes, perfectly well.

Mrs. Bukky Nasirudeen, is a Muslim and a mother of four kids who narrates her experience and circumstances that led her to this business.

Nasirudeen, a female cobbler with 16 years experience. Source: Esther Odili.

Nasirudeen, a female cobbler with 16 years experience. Source: Esther Odili.

Nasirudeen is a female shoemaker and shoe designer in Ogba, Lagos state, who has been in the business for sixteen-years now and has gathered much experience and expertise required for sustainability of the business.

She specialises in male and female shoe making as well as children shoes, a craft she learnt at Olodi Apapa –Ajegunle, Lagos.

One interesting thing about this beautiful woman who hails from Ogun state, is the confidence displayed in her craft delivery, her designs and style of shoe making.

Speaking with, Nasirudeen informed that she attained this height from the experience gathered during her training days. Having been trained among the male folks, being the only lady in their midst, she has gained boldness and confident in dealing with the male folks and doing their design ever.

According to her, she embraced the craft- shoemaking as a source of livelihood.The search for a daily source of income and the choice of not being idle prompt her to join the highly dominated male business of cordwainer and 'shoe-making' from 1990-1996.

Nasirudeen explained her journey into the business. In her words, she said:

“After my secondary school education me mother held my hand and took me to Apapa to learn this skill. I was the only one among the guys, but I was never scared of their sight. I took up the courage to be among the guys."

“I acquired the skill for six years and since 1996, I never regretted doing this business. My family, especially my parents were in full support seeing my passion and dedication for the craft. After my training, they rented a shop for me and provided the basic tools I needed and this was how I started shoe making.

“I started making shoes with the capital raised by my family as the start-up capital to get leathers and other little things I needed. So whenever I make shoes and sell them, I make my money and whenever I repair shoes, I also make good money and even when I fix zips on bags, I still make my money," she said.

Although there is no business that does not come with its own challenges but she has been managing to keep the business running for so long and making a living out of it.

“When I started, I make shoes for both genders but I find out that the female don’t get satisfied with my job. This bothered me so much and I focused on men shoes, just old men and young men who are matured and youths. Each time I make shoes for men and they are pleased with my job, they pay me an extra fee and even go as far as bringing new customers for me, but the major problem I had was women who always complain,” she says.

Nasirudeen boast of the uniqueness of her designs and the qualities needed in the art but also how other male counterparts come for her designs.

“If you are able to use different leathers and combine it very well to achieve a great style, it will show your level of creativity. The more creative your mind is, the more customers you will win to your side.

“Most times other shoe makers come to beg me for my designs, but I use to tell them I don’t have it, they even beg me for the pattern I use to draft my designs I turned down their request. Because if I give them my pattern, I will end up losing my customers after which they make designs with it. So they come to my shop, take pictures of my works and even draw it here and that’s how it ends,” the talented cobbler informed.

When asked how profitable the business is, Nasirudeen says: “The business has been profitable and I love what I’m doing because you make sales daily, huge sales but sometimes you might not make profit, with God’s grace upon my work I don’t record loss in anyway. Because I use this business to pay my rent, support my husband and take care of myself. So sometimes I make N5,000, N10,000 or more daily and you might come to shop some days and you would make just . But am grateful to God for his blessings, my business is growing, my children are healthy and I am satisfied.”

Beautiful designs of low slip-on and sandals for both male and female by Nasirudeen. Source: Esther Odili.

Beautiful designs of low slip-on and sandals for both male and female by Nasirudeen. Source: Esther Odili.

Also, she admits that the business has been running smooth and that the only challenge she faced was the local government officials who come and harass her but as time goes on, their boss called them to take pity on her, owing to the fact that she is a woman.

Creating designs might be difficult for others but she gets her designs from catalogue, things happening around her and also from colleagues.

“Whenever I go to buy materials and meet with my colleagues in the market, we rapport and they show me some designs that are in vogue, some call me, they call me and teach me the new designs. So I get to my shop, I make these design and sell them to men who attend parties weekly and they loved my work and commend me for a good job well done. So this how I keep my customers. But all thanks goes to my colleagues from other states that assist me greatly anytime I call them.”

“I buy materials at Mushin in Lagos; I buy quality materials to make my shoes so as to satisfy my customers. But my shoes are affordable. The price ranges from N3,000 upward but this is determined by the material used and the design, as some are sold from N10,000 upwards,” Nasirudeen reveal where she source her materials from.

“For someone who wants to go into this business, the basic tools needed are scissors, sewing machine, hammer, pliers, pin(husband and wife), thread of different colours, nail, screw driver, filling machine e.t.c. all this and more can be gotten as the business expands. And you can get them at affordable prices.”

High quality men's slippers and sandals on display by Nasirudeen. Source: Esther Odili.

High quality men's slippers and sandals on display by Nasirudeen. Source: Esther Odili.

On finding time to relax, she said: “I’m a busy woman, I don’t have break, I work from Mondays through Fridays and even my children now embrace the job and has seen it as a family business, and are even more skillful than I am. So when my children are on holidays, they come to assist me. Sometimes during weekend they also come to assist me. But I try as much as possible to balance their school work with the business. Despite my busy schedule, I still find time to go to mosque and attend other religious activities.

Considering if she would do this job in the future, she responded; “You know I’m advancing in age, it will get to a time when I will not be able to do this again. Right now, my children’s education is my priority and I’m glad they are progressing. With quality education coupled with God’s intervention, I know my children would be successful in life. So if they are successful, and then are blessed i don’t need to work hard anymore.”

However, she believed other women are more skillful than she is but only needs more capital and encouragement, which is the pre-requisite of the business.

“Lagos state government has been very supportive and encouraging. They organize programmes where we will be able to show case our works and as well get funds to promote our business. But we plead for more funds, because the cost of materials now is higher. We therefore plead for more funds.”

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