A degree holder learned carpentry from watching tutorials on YouTube: The story of Zainab Kargbo

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By: Festus Conteh

In Sierra Leone, there is a saying amongst men ”what men can do, women can’t stand the heat”. Zainab Kargbo, a graduate from the Institute of Public Administration and Management has completely changed that narrative.

 Zainab Kargbo holds a Bsc in Business Administration from the Institute of Public Administration and Management (IPAM- University of Sierra Leone). She is the embodiment of women’s empowerment. I came across one of her works on a WhatsApp forum. I was astonished to see a female degree holder embark on such a job. I had to reach out to her to know more about how and why she’s doing such a job in this male-dominant world of carpentry. On a sunny and busy Monday, I called her to meet with her, which she agreed on. At 2:00 pm, I met with Zainab in a bid to tell her fascinating story to the world. With an accomodating reception at her workshop, I felt even more connected with the work she is doing. Especially when she holds the hammer to strike on the nail. Everything was entirely unique and different, her beauty was glowing in her jumpsuit. I had an exclusive interview with her.

What is your source of inspiration?

“During my third year in the university, things were not easy for me, I tried to secure a per time job to at least assist myself in my studies. I wrote over twenty (20) application letters and shared it to different companies and institutions but none was approved. It was also surprising to see graduates going up and down without jobs which is more or less a killing spirit to the educators. One night, I was writing my dissertation , I decided to go online to do some basic research and I eventually came across a video on YouTube titled “How to make a tufted bed?” I watched the seven 7 minutes length video till the end I automatically fell in love with the creativity and I became more eager to put what I just saw into practice”.

 Zainab Kargbo further explained what inspired her to be more zealous to embark on the job “In the morning hours I discussed my interest in the job with my sisters, without time wasted, they violently frowned against it. They reminded me about the limit of women in our society. I became more passionate each time they talked against carpentry. I became friendlier to carpenters and my usual visitation became carpentry shops. I spent most of my time watching how carpenters go about in building the tufted bed, the tools involved, the measurement and other basic things. After my graduation, I received money from my dad, I decided to buy tools. My sisters still think I shouldn’t take this job. The funny expression on their faces when I showed them the tools is clear evidence that everyone is reliable to discourage you from your dream but just don’t succumb to anybody’s agenda. Indirectly my sisters were like my source of inspiration, I wanted to prove them wrong, I wanted to show them that with determination there is nothing that men do that we cannot do better. My bed was the first I tufted, my sisters were entirely surprised when they saw my first handy job. Since that day I have been getting projects to work on intermittently. This was how I got inspired to do this job”.

How do you find the bed tufting job?

“Well, I can say the job is undeniably stressful, for a woman to go in for this kind of job you need some attachment of perseverance, love and patience. I remembered being jealous by some senior male carpenters who think carpentry is not for females unless I have to sensitize some of them to see from my own lens of view. Whenever I went to buy materials for tufting, a lot of people queue to look at me, they find it strange hence the more they look at me, the more I know I am indirectly passing the message that ladies can do it even better. Sometimes after every tuft project you get tired, fatigue overcomes your body but at the end of the day, it worth every risk”.

Where did you learn tufting?

“I learned it online, YouTube to be more specific, but with the guidance of certain senior carpenters who helped me on the material processing, measurements, how to work with the tools especially the hammer. They also taught me how to fix different designs”.

As a woman what are the constraints that surround the job?

“It’s never an excuse to be a woman neither a curse. The constraints are cut across tufting even men can experience such. Some customers when telling them a price that favours the two parties will go by all means to give a price that even warrants you to spend excesses money to get things done. Whenever I go shopping tufting materials, people from all angles fix their eyes on me which makes me a little bit shy unless I have to mortgage some courage. I also don’t have a workshop, for now, I do my work in the compound I am living, sometimes people complain about the noise. I have to beg them to forgive me for the noise. I really need a workshop if not permanent but temporary so that it can make the work go easier”. 

How encouraging are you if someone wants to learn tufting from you?

“I will be ready to pass on my knowledge to people, especially women let them feel free to go in for this job. I want to change that narrative of posing odd jobs for only men. We can become self-reliant through these jobs, we can earn income from these jobs. Let them just come they can as well do it even more than me”.

So what is your message to women and the government?

“I will, first of all, send this one to my fellow women, don’t always depend on men if you want to gain your respect and the idea of liability should be dumped and set ablaze. You can still do your nails, fix your wigs buy your cream, dress to kill and always neat with the income you make. It doesn’t have to be men always, we need to be supportive of our spouse work shoulder to shoulder with our boyfriends support them in achieving their dreams that way we will earn our respects forever. A bright example to our first lady Her Excellency Madam Fatima Maada Bio who supported the president without looking back. Mitchell Obama again is another example to follow. We can do it, yes we can but not with instinct that men should always give”.

She sent a special message to the government. “To the government, just like how women should be supportive to men, the same way how citizens should be entirely focused on supporting the government towards development. This is my own little way of supporting the government towards development I need their support as well to make my brand bigger in a way that we can be thinking of exporting these tufted beds to other countries. I want the government to help me to extend my ideas to all women in the country, I want to be hosting workshops in which I will be required to do thorough sensitization about this job. I want to lessen the burden on the government about giving jobs to graduate, at least bed tufting is another way to make money and support your family, it doesn’t have to always be white color jobs. This is my dream I want the government to help me achieve it”.

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