Shoe making venture puts bread on the table

Five women from Gatsi Street in Zengeza 3 have joined forces and ventured into sandal and shoe making.

From Left, Regina Tichaungana, Rosemary Charonda, Nosta Dube and Pfungwa Kanona.
From Left, Regina Tichaungana, Rosemary Charonda, Nosta Dube and Pfungwa Kanona.

Regina Tichaungana, 34, Rosemary Charonda, 38, Nosta Dube, 38, Pfungwa Kanona, 30 and Angeline Alufeyo, 35 realised that they had to find something lucrative to keep body and soul together as the Zimbabwean economy continued to collapse.

“I am living a fairly comfortable life where I can eat what I want and pay my rentals on time,” said Tichaungana, a single mother of one. “Gone are the days when my son would be chased from school to go home and fetch receipts. I now plan my finances strategically and pay my son’s fees on time.”

Charonda, a mother of three, said the project had enabled her to improve her family’s standard of living. “I can buy food for the family instead of depending on my husband, whose income was not enough to provide for the financial needs of the extended family,” she said.

Alufeyo, whose husband is self-employed said she no longer developed headaches every month-end and theirs was now a happy marriage.

“There were months when it would be very difficult for my husband to provide food for the family and pay rent on time. He is very supportive of this initiative because the benefits are transgressing to the family’s income basket,” she said.

Borehole initiative

The women said the idea of venturing into shoe making was something they discussed when they met almost on a daily basis looking for water.

The Chitungwiza local authority has failed to provide adequate water supplies to residents for many years now. So the women would meet regularly at the local borehole and Alufeyo mobilised the other women to brainstorm on an income-generating initiative that was not capital intensive.

Currently the spokesperson of the group, Alufeyo said the initiative – only a year old now – had so far enabled the group to pocket enough for their personal financial needs and to keep the business running.

Although the business has survived the ever-deteriorating economic meltdown, the women are unable to buy the machinery they need for shoe making. So to make their sandals they buy used tyres for $5 or $6.

Painful process

“One tyre can make at least three pairs of sandals,” said Alufeyo. On a daily basis, the women can make at least 15 pairs. Using blades, they take turns to cut the tyres, paste the rexine, shape and design the sandals. It is a painful process.

But the women said they would continue making the shoes even without the machinery because that it was better hurt their fingers than to sleep on empty stomachs.

“We are in the process of buying protective clothing to minimise the damage to our hands, but we cannot stop production at this moment because of that,” said Dube. The sandals are then designed with beads, animal skin and sometimes leather – depending on the required order.

They recently registered a company called Deborah Women’s Group. “Our aim is to empower other women and once we have the machinery and space for our business, we want to employ other women,” said Alufeyo.

Hoarding

The group is now in the process of seeking expertise on how they can source international markets and expand their business.

“We sell our sandals for $8 a pair to those that buy them in bulk and who are in the business of buying and selling because we hardly have the time to sell directly to the customers,” said Alufeyo.

“We would want a situation where we can have our own shop so that we can realise more profit,” said Kanona, adding that the group only made shoes based on orders. “We hardly keep samples of shoes because we normally make them when they are ordered since we do not have the machines.”

Support

A World Bank 2013 study titled “Women and Trade in Africa” reported that lack of access to finance, information and formal networks often pushes women into the informal economy, where their capacity for growth is limited.

The United Nations Inter-Agency Network on Women and Gender Equality says women dominate the informal sector and this is a major source of job-creation in Africa.

The Zimbabwe Chamber of Informal Economy Association (ZCIEA) noted that women constitute a large percentage of those operating in the informal sector, and said it was vital that support mechanisms be provided to cushion women from bearing the brunt of the country’s economic collapse.

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