When Okoronkwo Chikaodiri began to study Office Technology and Management (OTM) at a polytechnic, never did she know that Providence would cross her path with carpentry and furniture work traditionally considered the job of men.
Now, what started as simple flair has evolved - with years of learning and hard work - into a flourishing enterprise in Delta state capital, Asaba.
In an exclusive interview with Legit.ng, Chikaodiri narrated how she learned the furniture and carpentry job despite the stumbling blocks that almost put that dream into the cesspit.
1. Can we meet you?
My name is Okoronkwo Nneora Chikaodiri. I am from Afikpo North local government area of Ebonyi state. I have a higher national diploma.
2. You're into furniture, how did the journey start?
It all started when I was running my diploma in Office Technology and Management (OTM). They normally gave us an assignment on the typewriter keyboard. So there was a man who usually carried a box that looked like a keyboard. I asked him to borrow me but he replied it was a work of furniture.
It was a bit interesting. Then I asked him the difference between carpentry and furniture which he explained. He showed me the pictures of his work. To be honest, I never knew something like that could be done here in Nigeria. I normally saw them on wallpapers.
I asked him if a female could learn the work but said NO. Undeterred by his response, I was going to school one day when I saw a big shop where beautiful works of carpentry and furniture were displayed. I told the man I was interested in learning the work which he objected initially. After seeing my determination, he gave me a price and told me to begin as an apprentice. Unfortunately, I left the shop due to sexual harassment.
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Then I looked for another place. That was how the journey began.
3. Carpentry is considered men's work, how are you coping with the stress?
Yes, so they say. But honestly speaking I don't feel any stress because that is the place I had wanted to be. I had a stronger passion for it.
4. Have you experienced bias based on your gender since starting this work?
Yes. Most times people will see me working and will still be asking if I am a man or a woman. If I go to a furniture workshop to get my tools, sellers will still be asking what do I want to use them for.
Besides, the boss whom I learnt from most times looked down on me until he saw my ability.
5. Advice for women doing or thinking of dabbling into men-dominated jobs like carpentry and furniture?
Honestly, if there is any lady who has a passion for a men-dominated job, please follow it up. Most times is not easy but don't give up. Most times, I use to challenge guys when it comes to working, it gives joy anyways.
6. What are your prospects, dream for this job in the next 5 years?
To have a big construction company in my name (smile).
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Rahaman Abiola is a result-oriented journalist and content writer with a firm grip of over 5-year corporate experience stranding diverse roles in digital & traditional media and social media communication.
A published literary writer, freelancer and public commentator, he has written over 100 essays covering diverse issues on economy, politics and current affairs, entertainment and leadership published in virtually all notable Nigerian national dailies and digital media in Nigeria.
He is a graduate of English Literature, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife. Follow him on Twitter via @ShugabanR.