…how Zvishavane female shoemaker has snatched ‘men’s job’
ZVISHAVANE – An enterprising local woman has warmed the hearts of many residents through her remarkable shoemaking prowess, doing brisk business in a sector which is known to be predominantly male.
Vitalis Nyoni (49) of Wedza village under chief Wedza is proving to be a rare example of women demystifying society’s perception of gender roles that often lead to the privileging of men at the expense of women.
Nyoni conducts her business on the pavement outside Edgars where she gets up to a dozen customers per day.
“I get a good number of customer every day, most of them being students from the local campus of the Midlands State University. I also receive good reviews of my work from customers who are satisfied by the quality of work I do.
“A customer once came to me on a Monday saying he had missed a church service the previous day as his shoes needed some serious repair work. He said he found it better to wait for me to get back to work than go to other cobblers as he did not have as much trust in their workmanship as he had in mine. It was a humbling compliment,” said Nyoni.
She said she started mending shoes in 2013 after experiencing serious economic difficulties as the country experienced a drought and as the economy nosedived after elections of that year.
“It was in 2013 that hunger pushed me into streets. I started walking from door to door selling my services for basics. As if my troubles were not enough, my husband fell into an open pit and he lost his sight that very same year. That is when I started to take this trade, which has since become my only livelihood, quite seriously,” she said.
With the little she gets from repairing shoes, Nyoni says she is sending her five children to school.
“All of my five children are in secondary school with the oldest now in form six. I pay their fees using the money I earn doing this job. I shudder to imagine the kind of life I would be leading had I not learnt and mastered this trade,” Nyoni said.
When asked about what women could do to challenge patriarchy in all spheres of life, Nyoni said it has to begin at local level and in humble circles.
“We can begin small and grow with time. It begins with doing these very small jobs that even men themselves might not be too proud of doing. Once women establish themselves in these small jobs and challenge the dominance of men, we can then explore bigger things.
“It’s better to have many women doing small jobs than to have only one or two female leaders or successful business people being taken as a sign that women are progressing,” Nyoni said.
She said in many cases, those successful female leaders and business people would be an end unto themselves, having male assistants and business partners.