• April 18, 2024
  • Last Update April 18, 2024 6:55 PM
  • Nairobi

Eunice Chirchir: Eldoret woman forced into shoe-making by circumstances

Eunice Chirchir: Eldoret woman forced into shoe-making by circumstances

By Patricia Mollyne Mataga

For long shoemaking has been seen as a male job. Even today, walk around streets in urban areas and you’ll find men lined up strategically waiting for customers seeking various show-making services. 

But in Eldoret, a woman is out to rewrite that perception. Eunice Chirchir has already been in the sector for about 10 years. Circumstances forced her into it.

She first separated from her husband, and then had no option but to stop doing menial construction work – for health reasons.

“I commenced this shoemaking venture in 2014 after facing challenges as a construction labourer due to age-related difficulties,” Eunice tells Nairobi Review.

“My efforts to secure funds for my children’s education left in my care as both father and mother, led me to explore selling alcohol. The financial strain of being on my own eventually prompted me to enter the shoemaking profession,” she adds.

However, her interest in shoemaking did not come as a surprise. She admired the job long before circumstances pushed her into it.

Most of the skills that she possesses in shoe repair are through observing a friend.

“I progressed to the point where I would create a single shoe using his tools, earning money in the process,” she explains.

It was a big move to venture into a male-dominated job, and had to seek children’s opinions.

Surprisingly, they understood the situation and agreed that she had to do what it takes to put food on the table.

“I gathered funds to purchase essential tools like brushes, soles, and shoe polish, setting up a modest display with the sign – SHOE POLISH SHOE REPAIR – That marked the beginning of my journey,” Eunice narrated.

Challenges for shoemakers

But just like any other job, shoemaking has its challenges and Eunice was not an exception.

The major one was the fact that the society took the job as for the male and many did not trust her ability to repair shoes.

“Initially, customers disapproved of me, questioning my skills. Some would turn away, while others hesitated until they witnessed my capabilities,” she says.

But over time, and through consistent quality work, she started gaining the trust of the few customers who gave her a shoe repair job.

She is now as trusted for the job as her male counterparts in the trade.

Another challenge Eunice has encountered in the shoemaking job is health implications.

The job requires that he bends while seated to work on the shoes and this has led to her experiencing chest pains.

However, she believes that adapting to challenges is the only way to succeed.

She advises ladies, and the general public not to despise any job – as long as it offers an opportunity to earn a living legally.

“I cherish this work deeply as it sustains me,” she says, adding that “As long as your job provides for you, take care of it.”

It has not been an easy journey but for the over 9 years of her trade, she has been able to pay school fees for her children. This she managed by registering into two different chamas where she contributed Ksh200 daily to one and Ksh1,000 weekly to another.

“I had a small support from the bursaries and I am grateful for God’s blessings,” Eunice said.

Having worked her way despite playing the father-mother role, the woman had an inspirational message to single ladies – “Never give up; believe in God and find something you can do that pleases both God and yourself. Avoid engaging in activities like selling alcohol or participating in unsavoury practices within society.”

She also challenged children to respect their backgrounds.  

“Consider your roots Your parents may be striving for your sake. Don’t disappoint them by neglecting your studies or engaging in harmful activities that make your parents unhappy,” she advised.  

Eunice also had a message for men facing separation or other family issues.

She asked them to be accountable to their families and never to burden their women with responsibilities. 

“Remember you have children, so stay informed about their well-being in terms of food, education, and clothing. Despite life’s challenges, be a responsible father, and God will bless you,” she said.

Eunice’s story is a testament to resilience, hard work and determination.

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