Patience Osang arrives at her shop at Ekorinim 2, a town in Calabar, capital of southern Nigeria’s Cross River State, as early as 7 AM daily.
She works on shoes for her clients till 10 AM, then closes the shop and heads to school for her lectures. She is studying economics at the University of Calabar.
By the time she completes her lectures, she returns to her shop, working into late night to meet her promised delivery date to her customers.
Osang’s interest in shoemaking started at age 10. At the time, she was a primary school student, and experimented with making paper shoes for pleasure.
Later in secondary school, she would cut used cartons and design them into various shoe shapes. After secondary school, Osang could not proceed immediately to the university due to financial challenges.
It was then she decided to pursue her childhood dream of becoming a shoemaker to save up money for her university education.
She began learning and making male and female shoes for people from her home in 2014. By 2018, she had become very good at shoemaking.
She saved up some money and bought some sophisticated tools for her business. In 2021, she had saved enough to begin her university education, writing the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination into the university in June of that year.
As a 100-level student at the University of Calabar, Osang launched her shoe brand, “Euphoria by Tesoropat,” and got herself a workspace at Ekorinim 2.
She created a Facebook page, used it to advertise her shoes, and sent photos of them to her friends and contacts via Whatsapp. Seven months after the official launch, Osang now has customers from ten Nigerian states.
She admits, however, that making shoes for both men and women as a female cordwainer is not an easy job. Numerous obstacles exist, and here is one: Men who believe women shouldn’t make shoes occasionally criticise her.
“It does not matter how much I try to prove to guys that I am good at it; some of them will always doubt my ability at first. Some do not even give me jobs because they do not think a female can make their shoes,” she said.
“When they hear about the brand and see the beautiful designs, they always want to patronise me, but when they finally come to the shop and realise a female runs it, they begin to make nasty comments, using my sex to judge my ability to make shoes.”
Some say shoemaking is hard work and that she does not have the physical strength to produce quality shoes.
“They expect to see a muscular guy. They begin to ask how I am able to lift a hammer to nail shoes, and they just believe a girl cannot be strong enough to do that,” Osang told Prime Progress.
Osang said some other men think she makes shoes out of necessity rather than passion. Thinking she would succumb to their overtures for money, they try to use their patronage for sexual advances.
“Sometimes, they could send a message saying they need five pairs of shoes on the condition that I get to hang out with them and get close to them,” she said
But she has refused to allow any of those challenges to stop her from doing what she enjoys.
“I have proven to many male clients that I make better shoes than most male cordwainers. I have also proven to many that females can be and do whatever they want. Gender can never be a barrier,” she said.