By Moses Mbaiorga
After being dropped out of school due to lack of finance to pay tuition fee, Janet Ahile, a mother of four who is currently the Chairman of Automobile Painting and Services, Gboko Branch, in Benue State took to the automobile services to make ends meet.
Automobile painting and services, fondly called panel beating by many people is considered a male dominated venture.
But to Mrs Ahile, she had the boldness to break the jinx in the vocation in order to fend and also raise her children.
Who is Janet Ahile?
“I am from Kwande Local Government but I based in Gboko. I am married with four children and by God’s grace, I am not just a Panel Beater and Painter but also the Chairman, Automobile Painting and Services Gboko Branch, Benue state.”
Why she ventured into automobile painting
According to Mrs Akile, there were several reasons that made her to take to panel beating but chiefly, she said, was to earn a living.
“First of all, I was dropped out of school for lack of money to foot the bills and I said let me acquire a skill so that I will be useful to myself and the society. Then I chose panel beating and spraying of vehicles because I had passion for it.
Secondly, our society believes that vocations like this are only meant for masculine gender. So I wanted to break the jinx and prove to the world that most of the things that men do, women can do even better. This is because, to the best of my knowledge, women are stronger than men. For example, a woman will go to farm with her husband, do the same work together but when they return home, most of the men will be resting in the room while a woman will go ahead cooking and doing other house chores.
“Thirdly, I wanted to awaken women’s consciousness to stop depending solely on men as well as leaving other professions exclusively for them. When I started learning panel beating, people thought it was a child’s play but by God’s grace, today, I have achieved my goal.
When she started
Narrating, the female painter said: “I started learning this work as an apprentice in 2002 and I graduated in 2008. Thereafter, I set up my workshop and had been managing it for over 10 years now. On a whole, I have been into this profession for almost 20 years. And I have graduated over twenty people and now I have no fewer than 12 apprentice who are fast learning the work under me.
“My major challenges are lack of materials especially compressor machine and ovum sprayer. I have them though with small capacity. If I am able to get a big Tiger Compressor and Ovum Sprayer, I can work more perfectly than a white man.
Mrs Ahile said since she joined panel beating and automobile spraying services, she has achieved so much more than one can imagine.
“First of all, it is my main source of livelihood. I, my children and entire family depend on this work for survival and we are doing fine. Again, I have trained a lot of youths who in turn will not only train younger generation but also put food on their table. I also have a lot of connections with people through this work. In fact, they are countless.
“Most of the people used to look at me as someone who does not know what she is doing and where she is going. They also looked at me as if there is no substance in what I am doing. However, some people always advised me to keep my head bent on what I am doing and that gave me a push to do more and never give up.
“By God’s grace, in the next 5 to 10 years, I will grow more than what I am today such that, challenges of working tools will be a thing of the past. With my tools being intact, I will be fine,” she said.
Needing support, assistance
Explaining the need to seek support from prominent Nigerians, Mrs Akile said she is lacking modern working tools and a standard workshop to enhance her operations.
“In 2007 when Senator Gabriel Suswam, then governor, was coming to Gboko for a campaign rally, I used my bicycle to join the convoy organized by motorcycle (Okada) riders to welcome him. He then saw me in the process and was even told about the nature of the work I do. So he gave me N50, 000 and I added my money and established my workshop.
“Like I said earlier, I need advanced working tools like high quality Compressor and Ovum Sprayer to perfect my work. Apart from that, I want to plead with government agencies and private individuals to always give me and other members of Automobile Painting and spraying Services Association Gboko branch some work to. I do not need to be given cash but working implements and contracts to do.
Advice to women
“I want to urge all young women especially those who are mentally and physically fit but have no stable income generating activity to key into skills acquisition. Even if it means coming to my workshop to learn, they should not shy but come quickly and I will teach them. It is through self employment that we shall be able to build our nation.”