The journey of Jacklin Osman, a female shoemaker in a male-dominated industry

Jackline’s journey into shoemaking began after senior high school when she chose to learn a craft with her hands. Growing up in a family of skilled artisans, she felt drawn to shoemaking after witnessing a local shoemaker at work. Despite her parents’ desire for her to pursue sewing, Jackline, a native of Bawku, a municipality in the Upper East Region, embarked on a unique path fueled by her own interests. While waiting for an admission letter from the University of Ghana, she made good use of the time to acquire a handicraft. She finally got admission and studied political science and French. After her National Service, she decided to put to use the shoemaking skill she had acquired before her university education. Jackline has been a shoemaker for about seven years but has been practising full-time for about two years.

Entering the Male-Dominated Industry:

Facing scepticism and opposition from some quarters, Jackline encountered discouragement while working by the roadside. She recounts, “Some guys would be like, ‘Go home; I will pray for you so that you will find a man to marry you. You are a lady; you don’t have to be doing this work.’ But others have also been inspiring me, purchasing my products and all that.”

Jackline’s resilience shines through as she discusses the challenges she faces. “None of the words people throw at me has made me want to stop the shoemaking,” she declares in an interview with Pulse Ghana’s Andreas Kamasah. Her passion for the craft drives her forward, and she remains undeterred by naysayers. She emphasizes, “The only time I consider giving up is when I get really tired.”

Achievements and Milestones:

Despite the highs and lows inherent in every market, Jackline’s business, named simply as ‘Jackline O’, has found balance. “In every market, there are highs and lows; there are times you’re busy through the week and there are days you’re not busy at all. But so far so good; it has been balancing itself. The good days make up for the bad days,” she reflects.

Encounters with Challenges:

Jackline candidly shares a challenging experience where she was scammed after a significant order. At the early stage of her business, she invested all her resources into creating products for a customer who later disappeared without paying. Despite this setback, Jackline remains resilient, acknowledging the painful memory but not letting it deter her. “I had a man order four pairs of shoes and two pairs of slippers, and that was my very first big order because I had just started the market, so it was quite good for me. I invested every penny I had into that particular order because I started making shoes right after NSS, so the money was not big. With everything I had, I bought the materials I needed, made four shoes and three slippers and then met this man and he collected the product.

“He actually scammed me and up to now I haven’t gotten my money. It is something that really pains me because that was the beginning of my process; it was like my foundation, but he duped me and sent my money away. Up to now I still remember him because the money was quite big,” she recounted with pain visibly written on her face.

Jackline encourages fellow women to pursue their passions regardless of gender stereotypes. Additionally, she advises those seeking employment to learn a skill they are passionate about, emphasizing its potential for personal fulfilment and independence.

Looking ahead, Jackline envisions significant growth for her business. “I see something big in my head, and so far I see myself walking towards the vision I have,” she declares with optimism. Her determination is evident as she reflects on her progress from a small corner of her room to her current workshop.

Beyond her skills, Jackline aims to challenge the stereotype associated with being a shoemaker. “I want to move away from cobbling because it doesn’t give me time to focus on my craft very well,” she expresses. Jackline intends to educate people about her ability to create shoes from scratch, dispelling misconceptions associated with her profession.

She is constrained by the lack of machines and other equipment to enable her work to the maximum conveniently. She is appealing for help to push her business to where she envisions it to get. “You know, we are in a technological world, and then to produce mass or to even have convenient work, you have to use machines for work. And in my situation, it is just manpower, and it’s kind of like pulling me back a little because I cannot really produce a lot of things in a day,” Jackline lamented “So, I actually need machines to aid my work to make it easy so that I’m able to produce more, employ people, train other people, and expand the business. If anyone is watching and you want to help, please help because I enjoy my work and I want to help the community.”

Jackline’s journey from a university graduate in political science to a shoemaker exemplifies the power of passion and determination. Her story serves as an inspiration for individuals breaking barriers in pursuit of their dreams, proving that dedication can overcome even the toughest challenges.

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