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Zimbabwean female carpenter builds profitable business in male dominated trade


A female carpenter Jennifer Rupiya is building a sofa at her workshop On the outskirts of Harare, Zimbabwe. She is one of few female carpenters in the city.

Before she started her business, Charlywood Investments six years ago, Jennifer used to sell snacks to other carpenters then she started to take a keen interest in their work.

“I was attracted to this trade by a passion to do a job that’s commonly associated with men because I don’t believe there is any difference between what a man can do and what a woman can do. I saved some money and started buying materials to start the business” she said.

The 45-year-old says it has not been easy to penetrate the market – some customers are reluctant to have their work done by a woman. She said she is encouraged that a number are beginning to appreciate her services.

Jennifer’s sofas sell for between 100 to $1000 .

“At the end of the month, I can make sales of up to 2,000 US dollars. I have a payment system whereby clients can pay a deposit and then settle the balance after an agreed period of time, so in a week I can make sales of between 500 and $1000,” she added.

The country’s informal sector employs almost 6 million people. With many formal businesses and industries shut down in the last 15 years, as a result of the ongoing economic slowdown, many people are turning to entrepreneurship to make a living.

She explained that her ambition is to open at least three shops outside the capital city. Her company works with three casual workers depending on the amount of work available at any given time.
Some of her colleagues said they had been inspired to see her grow in the business over the years.

“We urge more women to join this trade because they are breadwinners and in the event that one’s husband dies they can still be able to take care of their families,” said Enoch Manhunha, a carpenter.

Jennifer says she wants to encourage other women to follow her lead and challenge themselves, even in areas considered a preserve for men, so they can become successful entrepreneurs and at the same time help change perceptions about women.

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