Wednesday, September 22, 2021
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Challenging patriarchy on the pavement

…how Zvishavane female
shoemaker has snatched ‘men’s job’  
– An enterprising local woman has warmed the hearts of many residents through
her remarkable shoemaking prowess, doing brisk business in a sector which is
known to be predominantly male.
Vitalis Nyoni (49) of
Wedza village under chief Wedza is proving to be a rare example of women
demystifying society’s perception of gender roles that often lead to the
privileging of men at the expense of women.
Nyoni conducts her
business on the pavement outside Edgars where she gets up to a dozen customers
per day.
“I get a good number of
customer every day, most of them being students from the local campus of the Midlands
State University. I also receive good reviews of my work from customers who are
satisfied by the quality of work I do.
“A customer once came
to me on a Monday saying he had missed a church service the previous day as his
shoes needed some serious repair work. He said he found it better to wait for
me to get back to work than go to other cobblers as he did not have as much
trust in their workmanship as he had in mine. It was a humbling compliment,”
said Nyoni.
She said she started
mending shoes in 2013 after experiencing serious economic difficulties as the
country experienced a drought and as the economy nosedived after elections of
that year.
“It was in 2013 that hunger
pushed me into streets. I started walking from door to door selling my services
for basics. As if my troubles were not enough, my husband fell into an open pit
and he lost his sight that very same year. That is when I started to take this trade,
which has since become my only livelihood, quite seriously,” she said.
With the little she
gets from repairing shoes, Nyoni says she is sending her five children to
“All of my five
children are in secondary school with the oldest now in form six. I pay their
fees using the money I earn doing this job. I shudder to imagine the kind of
life I would be leading had I not learnt and mastered this trade,” Nyoni said.
When asked about what
women could do to challenge patriarchy in all spheres of life, Nyoni said it
has to begin at local level and in humble circles.
“We can begin small and
grow with time. It begins with doing these very small jobs that even men
themselves might not be too proud of doing. Once women establish themselves in
these small jobs and challenge the dominance of men, we can then explore bigger
“It’s better to have
many women doing small jobs than to have only one or two female leaders or
successful business people being taken as a sign that women are progressing,”
Nyoni said.
She said in many cases,
those successful female leaders and business people would be an end unto
themselves, having male assistants and business partners.
TellZim News is the leading news organization in the Southern region. It provides candid, balanced and timely news from the communities. Keeping it real. Committed to tell Zimbabwe.

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