Meet Nicole Sibanda, Best Zimbabwean Trade Exhibit of 64th ZITF

Zimbabwe: Nicole Sibanda, a girl aged 22, won the Best Zimbabwean Exhibit, the category considered for the first time at the 64th Zimbabwe International Trade Fair last month.

Sibanda hails from a family of four and is a breadwinner by creating and selling shoes. She sells sandals, a pair for US $10 and produces approx. 50 pairs each month. She also sells belts at US $10 each in quantities of 20 each month.

Nicole also produces school shoes per order and feels that her work gives her independence, even when she is in the fields, traditionally dominated by the men.

She learnt shoemaking in the year 2021 after a local non-governmental organisation sponsored her education. She is a mother-of-one and has urged other women to take risks and be self-reliant in order to show tangible results that will gain respect from others.

Nicole was raised in Magwegwe and originally aspired to a career in graphic design. Her life has taken an unexpected turn and forced her to abandon the goal. It was a twist of fate that led her to explore shoemaking, it was a decision that changed her life trajectory.

The award winner tell-tales her story and said, “I sell sandals for US $10 a pair and each month I make 50 pairs. I sell a pair of belts for US $10 each and I produce 20 for every month. All these things are that I make from scratch.”

She added further to her story and said, “I produce school shoes and other items for order, so you can estimate how much money I make each month.”

Nicole said delightfully that in general, she enjoys her work and what counts is that she feels independent. “You know, being a woman who is a cobbler draws a lot of attention. As I speak, curiosity is running rampant among people who want how I make shoes,” said the Best Zimbabwean Exhibit.

“I am quite grateful that I am an independent woman, even in fields where historically men are dominated,” said Nicole Sibanda.

Back in 2021, when Nicole got a chance to learn shoemaking and design, she knew it was a path that she had to take, even if it is meant with leaving graphic design behind.

She had limited sources such as a local NGO that stepped in, sponsored her education and shaped a new creative chapter.

Embracing the motto, “practice makes a man perfect”, Sibanda drove head-first into the new world. Despite of being a complete beginner, her dedication honed her skills and propelled her to reward.

Acknowledging her journey, Sibanda said that it has not been without hurdles, and the challenges were a part of that process.

“Despite my assertion that I am independent, the shoe industry faces difficulties, just like any other, particularly in a market where people are willing to haggle over prices and even for the items that cost just US $1,” said Sibanda.

She explained, “You will discover products at lower costs. I do this for the benefit of business.” She reminded her colleagues that all children look to their mothers for support.

Nicole further stated that it feels bad to focus on something that the one has never dreamt of but it is what it is and she knows that it is because of her talent.

“You know society and family are too judgemental, as they expected me to work in an office like their kids but here, I am doing a blue-collar job and I am not complaining about it. I am content, I am independent,” said the winner, Nicole Sibanda.

She added to her words, “What I can say is get out of your comfort zone, it is never too late, the sky is the limit and at the end you are on your own.”