African Woman Making Waves in Men’s World:
African Woman Making Waves in Men’s World:
Inspiring Story of TITILAYOMI BINTA OLUBODUN, Nigerian Leather Technologist
My name is Titilayomi Binta Olubodun, I was born in Lagos State Nigeria, on the 13th of September 1971, my mum is from Lagos State while my dad is from Ogun state. I was raised in Ibadan by my paternal grandparents, I attended saint John’s Catholic primary school and later Sango high school, but I didn’t finish my high school in Ibadan, so I came to complete it in Oshodi high school in Lagos.
I am a leather craft technologist.
When I finished my secondary School education in December 1989, my parents had no plan to send me further, my dad wanted me to learn hairdressing, but I didn’t want to, even though I really don’t know what I want to do with my life then. Later I started working thinking that I can save and further my education, but as it turned out, I could barely feed myself on #150 salary a month.
I had worked for two years on that meagre pay, one faithful day, I bumped into some young boys making shoes. Getting my shoes size was a major challenge for me, I don’t get to choose my shoes design or colour, I was always grateful whenever I get any that sized me. I use size 44.
Before meeting those guys, I never knew that people could make shoes, so I was pleased I met them. I then asked them to make me a pair of sandals, they only specialised on slippers and sandals, they charged me #150, my one-month salary? And it wasn’t even leatherr. It was thick fabric materials called khaki. I paid because I was excited to have someone who could be making my shoes for me.
I was given 2 weeks to come for the collection, but after two weeks, my sandals weren’t ready, so I started going there everyday to beg to be given my sandals which I had paid for in full. Each time I got there, I always observe how they work and it dawned on me that I can actually do what they were doing. So, I told them and they laughed at me.
When I got home that day, I told my dad about my intention to learn Shoemaking, he laughed me to scorn and said that I was not serious with my life. The following week I went to beg the boys to allow me to come and work with them, they warned me that it wasn’t easy, but I insisted that I could do it. They asked me to come over so by February 1992 I started learning Shoemaking.
Because of lack of parental support, and a female child has lots of needs. I have been left to fend for myself since I left secondary School. I joined politics in Surulere where we resided, by 1993, I abandoned my learning for the Hope 93 campaign which takes me out of Lagos sometimes. But by the time the June 12 election was annulled and the party disbanded, I was back to square one.
In 1994 I met another guy who makes shoes with leather, his name is Embol, and he is a lot better than the guys I was learning from, so I walked up to him and told him my intention of learning the work, he started laughing, he told me how much he wanted to collect from me to teach me. The following week I took the money to him, he taught that I was kidding, but I showed him the pump that I made with damask material and he said that I tried, but I could do better. Today Embol is very proud of my work.
My initial challenge as a woman in a man’s world came when I was breastfeeding my baby, whenever it’s time for her to suck, because I did exclusive breastfeeding for her, I’ll have to rush into the shower and bathe before feeding her, sometimes I do that like 4 times a day, which slowed down my production. But generally, the challenges we all face in Nigeria Shoemaking industry is unavailability of power supply, quality materials and quality machines at affordable prices, plus the fact that importation of used shoes and bags and those cheap quality imported products pose a major challenge for us
I am inspired mostly by nature, I love natural settings, I love colours and shapes, I love beauty, sometimes a butterfly can help me create a design, sometimes it might be a flower, sometimes a woman’s body shape can give me idea about bag design, sometimes it might be a flying bird. I love to draw, so when I picked my pencil and begin to sketch my work, I feel good and when I’m done with the work and behold its outcome, I feel like a god. I started with Shoemaking, but today I make a lot of things, like bags and pauses, belts Ankara crafts, baby carriers and I’m on dress/cloth making now.
I have pretty good relationship with my male counterpart, especially Embol and those of us who are trained by him, most male shoemakers treats me with respect, but there are some that I’ve met who initially resent the fact that I’m better than them, but they later learn to grudgingly respect me ? .
My first big break came in 2006 when I got introduced to a female client. Prior to that time my only female clients were just me, my mom and siblings) she asked me to make 2 pairs of half shoes for her, and when I delivered that, she booked for another 3 pairs, and she started demanding for purse to match, I didn’t know much about bag, but I was pushed to learn so that I can give a better service.
My advice to women who wants to come into our world is that Shoemaking is a full-time job, it’s both brain and energy tasking. If you don’t have passion for it, don’t bother because you’ll be frustrated out, but if you are ready to work hard, you’ll succeed. Up till now, Nigerian government has no input in Shoemaking, even shoes for the armed forces are mostly imported, you have to derive a way to generate power for yourself if you want to work in Nigeria.
I really don’t have much to change in the industry, but it can be improved firstly by including its curriculum in Polytechnics, it can be improved by making machines available in Nigeria, the government can support by sending qualified youths to Italian schools of Shoemaking for more knowledge, but most importantly the government should encourage us by patronizing us.
The three women I admired most are: Mother Teresa, because of her selfless service to humanity, followed by Dr Dora Akunyili, for her self discipline and standing strong in the face of adversity, and lastly Dr Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, for daring to succeed where many men have failed.
My only source of strength is the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, and I have loving siblings and loyal friends who help me when the going gets tough.
My relationship with Jesus is like that of lovers, my days cannot start without listening to him through the scripture, His teaching keeps my life in check, and helps me relate better with my client. I found myself gisting with Him as I work and when I experience some challenges, I’ll say a short prayer, and things will be ok. I love Him sooo much!
One of the songs that keeps me strong is, “Count your blessings” especially the last verse. “So amid the conflict whether great or small, do not be discouraged God is over all”. And there’s also ” How firm a foundation” the last verse has a promise that I tightly hold on to, ” the soul that on Jesus hath lean for repose, I will not, I cannot desert to his foe, that soul though all hell should Endeavor to shake, I’ll never, no never, no never forsake”.
The quote that sums up my life is that of Mahatma Ghandi ” BE THE CHANGE YOU WANT TO SEE IN THE WORLD.”
I want to say a big thank you to the great woman behind this blog, Mrs Lilian Chudey Pride. She has mentored me, both spiritually and temporally, and I pray that God will continue to bless and strengthen her in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen .[LCP1]
Hello, I am Lilian Chudey Pride. Good to welcome you to my online world. I am a Writer, Teacher, Encourager, Author of Life Beyond Motherhood, Dignity of Womanhood and Publisher, iwriteafrica.com online Magazine. I love Africa so much and I derive joy in telling the world about her beauty and strength. I share the challenges of the childless African community, providing Support, Encouragement and Empowerment. While guiding the childless African woman to trust God, I help her to understand her peculiarity, grieve properly, heal and embrace purpose. See my book: Life Beyond Motherhood on Amazon. Welcome to Africa.