Talk of women doing incredible things and excelling in a male-dominated field, Owolasooge Temitope, Emike Lambert Emmanuel, and a few others are amazing. These are female tilers and they belong to the Association of Tilers Nigeria.
In addition to the astounding works they do with their hands, they share the same marital status; they are young widows with mouths to feed.
These female tilers are hardworking and you need not imagine the amount of hustle they put in to ensure their children are well catered for. But surprisingly, while they both agree that there are prospects in their tiling business, the huge challenge is not only about gender discrimination but, something worse. Something that sounds very absurd but common in a morally depraved society.
Temitope, a native of Osun state, tells her story. “First of all, I appreciate the person who taught me how to lay tiles. I started with just by going to sites and doing any available labour. I saw how they were laying tiles and loved the artistry involved. He encouraged me to learn tiling and as I was interested, it wasn’t difficult for me to understand the technique involved. I posted the first work I did on Instagram and people started commenting. They were saying wow, look at a lady tiler.
“ I learned the work for like two months and started working in 2017. By the grace of God, I’m the CEO of my business and I have apprentices working under me. Since I’ve been doing this tiling job, I’ve met many women but they are contractors and not tilers; but, I get the contract and also lay the tiles.
I’m living in Sapele, Delta State, and sometimes in Sango Ota. I stay in any place that the work takes me to. People now call me from Imo state, in short, different parts of the country to work. The work is very good though stressful.”
The major challenge she faces on the job as a woman, Temitope discloses is that “sometimes people call you to a site and want to take advantage of you. They will make it clear that if you don’t sleep with them, they will not give you work. I don’t work like that. If you want me to work with you or for you, you will pay me my money. If I sleep with the client, I will still do the work before collecting my money; what’s the need?
“Even some women make the work difficult for us. Sometimes they will accuse their husbands that they brought their girlfriend home, pretending that they are doing business. Even some of our fellow tilers will call me for work and afterward, to pay, is wahala. The other time, one customer called me from Lagos to go to Ibadan to submit a quotation. When I got there, he took me to a beer parlour. Later, he stole my handset after he pretended as if he was going to use it to reach his boss.”
The job is also hard on the female looks. “Look at my hands, (shows off her hands) they don’t look like a lady’s fingers again because of the work I do. But it doesn’t matter, so far as being a tiler puts food on my table. People are very wicked sometimes. They will quickly pay for work materials worth millions but just to pay maybe 20 thousand naira for laying the tiles, they want you to sleep with them. My plan now is to have a shop where I will be selling tiles and other materials while waiting for a tiling contract to come. I’m a widow and I need money to take care of my children.”
For us to get jobs they’ll tell you, “Nothing goes for nothing”- Emike
Edo state-born Emike has been in the tiling business for about 10 years now; she shares reasons she became a tiler.
“I’m the widow of a Fallen Hero. I’m ready to show off the skills that God gave me to put food on my table; I have three kids and other responsibilities to take care of. I need to work hard to take care of myself and my kids. I don’t need to depend on a man. I cannot sell my body before I take care of my responsibilities. This is what made me go into the tiling industry. But right here, the problem we are facing is that it is the quacks that are getting the jobs through connections. Those people giving quacks the jobs are only interested in their cuts and not whether the job will be done well.”
Emike believes the government can help with regulations that can protect the females among them and also support them with loans. “I’m begging the government to give us soft loans so that we don’t need to pay interest. This will help us especially the women in the industry to get the required equipment to do our jobs. We the female tilers are finding it very, very difficult in the industry because it is male-dominated. We cannot sell our bodies because we need jobs. When they call you for a job, even before taking you to the owner of the job, the person will tell you that nothing goes for nothing; it’s our bodies they’re asking for. How long are we going to continue like this? We are professional tilers and are ready to work.”
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