Meet Ibadan fastest growing female cobbler, Bami Oníbàtá



By Toheeb Babalola

Championing the world’s oldest professions by women ought not to emerge as a surprise due to the fact that all genders have equal fundamental rights in choosing careers without prejudice.

Shoemaking industry has been a key industry in Sub Saharan Africa dominated by male gender since the 18th century. Shoemaking, which is a business of joining leather, soles and materials to produce sandals, shoes, flip-flops, etc. for the use of human beings, had outrightly shut out females.

The root of this inequality could be traced to the African belief which placed women in the kitchen, and this has deprived them of their creative abilities to be seen or heard for decades. The tradition only prioritised men as the breadwinners of each household.

With the consistent awareness and advocacy for gender equality all around the globe, women have risen from their slumber, freed themselves from barriers and have started pursuing whatever profession they want. Nonetheless, Africa is blessed with extraordinary women who are already flourishing in the businesses initially owned by their counterparts, and Miss Mudirat Olabami Abayomi, seems to be one of them.

In a recent interview with Nigerian NewsDirect Newspapers at her workshop in Sango, Ibadan, Miss Abayomi, professionally called ‘Bami Onibata – Yoruba meaning of “the shoemaker,” revealed her struggles in the industry.

Bami Oníbàtá is an alumnus of one of the great citadels of learning in South-West Nigeria, The Polytechnic, Ibadan, she makes different kinds of footwear in less than three (3 hours) hours without any helping-hand.

She stormed the shoemaking industry with the passion of changing the narrative and pioneering the inclusion of women (most especially Ibadan residents) in the trade.

The 25-year-old shoemaker was officially welcomed into the profession at  a workshop in Oke Ado, Ibadan South West Local Government Area of Oyo State, immediately after her National Diploma, ND, programme, where she learned how to make Ankara shoes and bags for the female gender.

As a dynamic woman, Bami never allowed the lockdown (occasioned by COVID-19 pandemic) in 2020, deter her resolve to achieve fame in her chosen career, as she was always reporting for duty, finding her way from her Oluyole residence to her master’s workshop, it also did not stop her from fully delving into making different shoes for both gender. This endeared her to her trainer and master, especially her commitment and accuracy.

Bámi stated that, “In our workshop, we make shoes from scratch and my master hates sluggishness. I knew what I was up against and I did everything to prove I could learn faster. So, I learned everything in shoemaking within six months; though, I must confess that it wasn’t easy.”

Her commitment and diligence while learning the trade with other male apprentices endeared Bámi to her master’s clients, who always preferred her to repair their shoes for them to test her level of understanding of the trade.

But, she proved them all wrong in their perceived insinuations, springing surprises on them.

She however revealed that stereotypism by the male gender, who believes that she is foraging into an exclusive world of the male gender has not made things easy, she said, “The underestimation from people, especially the male gender, who are into it already relegate my gender from the trade. Since I delved into the profession, there has been little turn out.”

However, she enjoyed the support of her parents and relatives, and this has smoothen her journey into the shoemaking world. “Since I told them the reasons for my decision, they have nothing than to support me morally and financially,” she enthused.

Bámi Oníbàtà obtained her freedom from her master in December 2020, and ended up securing a job in one of the best shoemaking firms in Ibadan, Mow Footies, where she worked for 10 months before returning to school for her Higher National Diploma, HND, in 2021.

Combining lectures, which run from morning till evening with her work, Bámi began to source for clients on social media, making use of her friend’s workshop near The Polytechnic, Ibadan main gate.

“Most times, I will have to rush to the workshop during a break after two lectures, and rush back just to attend another lecture. And sometimes, I will work till night, just to meet up with the deadlines of my clients. I don’t fail my clients. My four-hour time frame for delivery/pick does not change,” She added.

With her commitment to delivery time, Bámi got more clientele through her clients, who recommended her and gave good feedback about her. She has made shoes for lecturers at her department; they recommended her to their colleagues in and outside the campus.

“There was a particular lecture, Public Relations Case Studies, the course lecturer, Mr. Olubukola Adio, used my brand, Bámi Oníbàtà, as a case study for the course. It gives my work more publicity on campus,” She revealed with a smile.

Bámi has been nominated for an award in the Best Entrepreneur category by the Union of Campus Journalists, The Press Council, TPI, The Polytechnic, Ibadan, which will come up on August 11.

Bámi, also a freelance On-Air-Personality, OAP, is currently conducting her final academic research study for the award of Higher National Diploma, HND, in Mass Communication.

She has a piece of advice for her gender, she encourages others not to feel inferior in anything they set out to do.

Addressing issues surrounding gender inequality, Fatimah Id¹ra, a Journalist and Gender-based Activist, clamoured for full participation of women in all sectors. Stressing that some professions are still lacking women representation.

Fatimah, crediting Bami, stated that female shoemakers are more influential than their male counterparts, and they easily drive the market and make profits despite the tough economy.

“It is not news that the women are doing better than the men in any area of specialisation. In journalism, as a case study, women are getting shortlisted for international fellowships and winning more investigative awards within and outside Nigeria. This is to confirm the fact that we (women) are taking over the world,” she said.

Bami Oníbàtá is currently embarking on a journey to camp for a year of mandatory youth service, National Youth Service Corps (NYSC).

1 Comment

  1. Opeyemi Sukurat

    April 23, 2024 at 9:04 am

    Infact she always motivate me anytime I want to relent, if I saw her post like this I will said to myself also that I can also make it💪 I love you soo much my sister ♥️

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