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Inside Story Of Nigerian Woman Who Is Changing Narratives Through Furniture Making

Posted by Samuel on Fri 08th Mar, 2024 - tori.ng

Hajiya Safiya has been into furniture making for over 30 years and she has sponsored some of her family members on pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia.

Hajiya Safiya Musa

Numerous women have elevated their husbands to the status of kings in the public eye by actively supporting their families instead of leaving their spouses to shoulder responsibilities alone. Among these remarkable women is Hajiya Safiya Musa, a 52-year-old resident of Gwada town in the Shiroro Local Government Area of Niger State.

Hajiya Safiya has been into furniture making for over 30 years and she has sponsored some of her family members on pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia. She has sponsored five of her children through school from primary to tertiary level with proceeds from her business.

The name Hajiya Mai Gado, as she is fondly called, has become a household name because of the quality of beds, cushions and mirror-stands she makes.

Customers say she has carved a niche for herself in the art of furniture making, beating men in customer retention through quality and affordable works, as well as timely service delivery.

Hajiya Safiya, who is a native of Karu Local Government Area of Nasarawa State, but born and bred in Gwada, a predominantly Gbagyi-speaking town, said she could construct at least two sets of cushions and two sets of beds in a day.

Aside from furniture making, Hajiya Safiya runs an Islamiyya school, about 200 metres from her house. The school which she started with 20 pupils currently has about 200 pupils, including married women, who attend classes on a daily basis.

Hajiya Safiya described the art of furniture making as energy-sapping, but rewarding.

She said, “20 years ago, when I was still strong and energetic, I was making furniture alone, including painting. But now I have boys who do most of the work. I only supervise to ensure quality work and timely delivery.

“I started furniture making about 30 years ago. I started this work at the age of 19. I learnt it from one Mr Sunday, an Igbo man who was residing in Gwada, but he has relocated to his state in the East. I had freedom from Mr Sunday at the age of 28, and opened my own workshop.

“After my primary education, I didn’t continue because I wanted to face the furniture making business with all commitment. But as my business progressed, I raised money, and with the consent of my husband, I went to the College of Arts and Islamic Studies (CAIS)Tudun-Fulani, Minna, Niger State, for my secondary education. I finished in 2018. I was going to CAIS every day from Gwada, about 42km.”


Hajiya Safiya, who boasts of nearly every equipment used for furniture making, said some of her boys learnt the work from her  while some were employed after they leant the job elsewhere.

Despite the fact that the job is male-dominated, she said she has continued to work hard to become an expert.

She said, “When I started learning the art of furniture making, up till the time I had freedom, many people, including men, couldn’t believe it because I was a woman. When I opened my shop, they were amazed. In the morning, after my domestic chores, I would put on my trousers, carry my harmers and other tools and start work. People always looked at me with surprise.”

Hajiya Safiya, who went on pilgrimage to Makkah, Saudi Arabia, 18 years ago, using proceeds from furniture shop, said, “I have never received any support from the government, but I have made a lot of progress. Through this work, I have built a house in Nyanya, Abuja. I am also building another house in Gwada. I have gone on hajj and also sponsored some of my relatives on hajj through this furniture making. I have also sponsored my children in school.”

However, she said, “the rising cost of materials is now a big challenge to the survival of my business. The board that we used to buy at the cost of N6,000 is currently N23,000. Many customers have complained, but thank God they listen to our explanations. I still enjoy good patronage, though sometimes I record losses.

“One of my children works in Abuja, one has graduated from school of health and works in a hospital in Sabon-Wuse and one of my daughters also finished from school of health technology and is married. Another one, after his secondary school, decided to venture into business.”


Speaking more about her work, she said, “My customers cut across women and men: Gwari, Fulani and others, who come here to buy beds and cushions. In fact, women have more confidence in my work. I am a woman, so I know the taste of women.”

She told Daily Trust that she enjoys the full support of her husband, who sometimes travel to Minna to buy wood, nails, screws and other things she needs to do her work.  While lamenting that none of her five children learnt the work from her, she expressed joy that one of her grandsons acquired the skill and was now working in her shop.

She further said, “I am always happy, because as a woman, this furniture making has made me popular within and outside this community. In the PZ Market, Minna, where I go to buy materials, you can’t mention my name twice.

“Secondly, being a woman, this work has given me recognition. Each time I have a ceremony in my house, the kind of guests I receive makes me happy. When one of my daughters got married in November, 2023, even the member of the House of Assembly representing Shiroro LGA, was in my house to celebrate with us.”


Hajiya Safiya’s husband, Alhaji Musa Hussaini, a butcher in Gwada Market, told Daily Trust, that he is happy with the good relationship his wife has with her customers, adding that through her furniture making business, she has done a lot for the family.

He said, “We’ve been married for the past 27 years. I am happy with what she does. I have never heard a complaint or misunderstanding between my wife and any of her customers. Sometimes Fulani people come to meet me where I sell meat to inform me that they would be coming to buy beds from my wife because of the quality of her work. It’s the major reason I have continued to give her solid backing to continue with the business.

“My wife has helped me in so many ways and she has supported even our children greatly. She shouldered most of the educational responsibility of our children and she never complained. If I go out, I walk like a king, especially when people introduce me to others as her husband. It gives me joy.”


Her 16-year-old grandson who is in secondary school and also works in her shop, Ahmad Musa, told our correspondent that, “Hajiya is the one taking care of me, including paying for my education. I can construct beds and cushions which I learnt from her.”

One of her employees, Nafi’u Sani, a native of Sokoto State, said, “I have worked with many furniture makers across Niger State, but to be frank with you, Hajiya Safiya doesn’t shortchange her customers. She uses quality materials to the satisfaction of her customers. I didn’t learn my work from her. I had my freedom somewhere else and worked in various places before joining Hajiya. In some places where I worked before Hajiya employed me, I saw how some furniture makers shortchanged their customers. Hajiya is always warning us to fear God.”

One of her customers, Emmanuel Benard, who confirmed that Hajiya Safiya’s beds and cushions are of high quality, said, “Honestly, she’s doing well. This is my first time seeing a woman in the furniture making business. I bought a set of cushions and beds from her for my wife. Her work is of high quality and that is why I brought my friend to buy from her.”

***

Source: Daily Trust



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