Gideon Kwame Sarkodie Osei | January 24, 2022
It’s around six o’clock in the morning and Celestine Anafu is busy sweeping and arranging shoemaking equipment. The 22-year-old lives in Akrofuom, in Ghana’s second largest city, Kumasi. She first learned shoemaking from her high school teacher. Now she is learning about using leather in her apprenticeship. Although many of her friends decided to go for Technical and Vocational Education Training (TVET), Mrs. Anafu says she decided to take a unique route to her career. She says she wants to be a role model for other girls because it feels good when other people admire and appreciate what you do. Ms. Anafu believes that it’s important that people not bully, intimidate, or discourage girls and women when they choose a male-dominated career.
This story is part of a series called Stars in the Field, produced as part of the Young Women in TVET project. Through this series, we will profile women working in the Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) sector in Ghana. While not a typical “Farmer story,” we think these profiles can inspire your listeners and start a conversation about traditional and non-traditional jobs for men and women in your community.
It’s around six o’clock in the morning and Celestine Anafu is busy sweeping and arranging shoemaking equipment. She beams with a smile in a purple T-shirt as she places shoe leather on a table in front of a wooden kiosk. She says, “I completed senior high school in 2019 and I decided to go into shoemaking.”
The 22-year-old lives in Akrofuom, in Ghana’s second largest city, Kumasi. She is preparing to start repairing shoes as part of her apprenticeship.
Ms. Anafu explains, “I decided to go into shoemaking although many people in the community think that shoemaking is for men only. I just needed to be different and do something unique.”
She first learned shoemaking from her high school teacher, who used to make beautiful slippers with beads. But now she is learning about using leather in her apprenticeship.
She explains: “I decided to learn more about shoemaking using leather. I travelled to Kumasi, in the Ashanti Region, to learn how to make shoes using leather, and this is why today I am now able to make leather slippers.”
She adds: “I always wanted to learn a skill, but when I looked around, there were so many tailoring and hairdressing salons. So, I asked myself ‘Why don’t I do something different?’ because I always wanted something different from what my friends and others were doing as their career.”
Although many of her friends decided to go for Technical and Vocational Education Training or TVET, Celestine explains that she decided to take a unique route to her career after finishing senior high school.
She says that trades like shoemaking that are not traditional for women have a lot of advantages, especially for women. She explains, “It provides a very competitive skill for women compared to traditional trades. The good thing is that, once you learn them, nobody can take non-traditional trade skills away from you.”
She adds that non-traditional trade skills benefit women by helping them become financially independent and less dependent on men in their families.
But Ms. Anafu says there is a discouraging negative perception in some Ghanaian societies about women working in non-traditional trades such as shoemaking.
She explains: “People have made up their minds about jobs that are for women and for men. Because of that, even when there are opportunities in male-dominated fields, women are discouraged.”
She adds: “Imagine, women in this shoemaking sector are few. Currently, I am the only woman shoemaker with my master. When I speak with my female friends, they always tell me that they cannot go into shoemaking because they think it is for men.”
For Ms. Anafu, pursuing her career has not come without challenges. She says that male apprentices tease her that she is in the wrong profession. She adds, “They tell me that a woman can never be a good shoemaker. Some customers are also surprised to see me.”
Ms. Anafu believes that it’s important that people not bully, intimidate, or discourage girls or women when they choose a career that is male-dominated.
She explains: “People will discourage you and call you all kinds of names like ‘man woman.’ Sometimes your colleagues and even teachers may want to sexually harass you. If you refuse, they begin to hate you and sideline you. Sometimes they refuse to teach you things you are supposed to learn in your career.”
She adds, “Some teachers also demand sexual relationships before employing females in male-dominated fields. This is not good for girls and women.”
Ms. Anafu says she has managed to overcome the challenges young girls face when they choose male-dominated careers. She explains, “I have just completed my apprenticeship but I am still with my teacher and am the only female apprentice. Soon, I will go to my teacher’s shop to use the skills I have acquired.”
She says that she wants to be a role model for other girls because it feels good when other people admire and appreciate what you do. She plans to have her own shop where she will make beautiful shoes and slippers.
She explains, “I will need about 6,175 Ghanaian Cedis (US $984) for me to be able to fully start up my own shoemaking business.”
This resource was produced as part of the Innovation in Non-traditional Vocational Education and Skills Training Project, INVEST, implemented by WUSC with funding from Global Affairs Canada.
Photo: Ms. Anafu at work, sitting by a pile of shoe soles. Credit: Gideon Kwame Sarkodie Osei.