Woman Employs Disabled People To Make Shoes—You’ll Never Guess What They’re Made Of*
By Brianna Acuesta
The shoes are made out of unexpected materials.
A 23-year-old Ghanaian woman named Mabel Suglo grew up ambitious and was surrounded by strong female role models. Her late grandmother suffered from severe leprosy, which is a disease that can result in skin lesions and damage to the nerves, limbs and eyes. Her grandmother had deformed hands and feet, leaving her to work with just one thumb, but she showed that she could keep up her farm on her own because she had enough willpower.
Mabel saw this determination and her grandmother’s abilities and it shaped the way that she lived life. The first thing to inspire her was when she witnessed a disabled man being harassed on the streets.
“One person didn’t give him money, but started telling him that he is good for nothing, useless, and that kind of thing. I just watched and had this mental picture of my grandmother. I really saw how we isolate these people. I thought it high time we make them feel welcome in the community. So I just walked up to him and I asked him if he could get a job that would pay better than begging, would he be ready to work? And he said yes.”
After asking several other disabled people if they would be willing to work and being met with a resounding “yes,” she promised to help these people to secure jobs—even though she had no idea how at that moment.
Mabel began mulling over ideas of how to start her own small business so she could personally employ the people she had spoken with. As a student studying Health Science Education, she was becoming increasingly aware of the need for sustainable products that are eco-friendly but also good for people. She gravitated towards clothing and remembered one key thing about the way her grandmother lived.
“The idea of using car tires to make shoes came to mind… My grandmother actually used to wear bits of old car tires for shoes because she had no toes and no shoes could fit her feet… So she just took a car tyre, cut it into short pieces and tied it with a rope and it worked well.”
After speaking with two business partners, her idea became a reality when she also partnered with a local school who teaches disabled people valuable job skills. They taught the students how to make shoes from old tires, discarded fabrics, and other waste materials to create unique, fashionable footwear for her new company, called EcoShoes.
She first employed 5 workers, but recently had to increase the amount of employees she has because of a growing demand for her the shoes. What started out as a small business that sourced the shoes to four regions in Ghana has now prompted her to seek out a website developer to expand the business. At just 23 years old, Mabel is a great role model for women looking to make a difference in the world. With her own willpower and her determination to let people know that “disability is not inability,” she’s changing the world one person at a time.