ACCRA — In a country where people with disabilities mostly tend to beg for alms on the streets to survive, Joseph Odey Mensah changed the narrative to become an entrepreneur and determined to make a huge mark in Ghana’s local shoemaking industry.
With his company, the Hope for Disabled Leather Works, located at Teshie in Accra, the capital of Ghana, Odey Mensah established his shoemaking business and single-handedly makes Birkenstock sandals, student sandals, and casual leather slippers for men and women.
Paralyzed in the legs since he was three, the now 59-year-old told Xinhua that he established the company 37 years ago after dropping out of school and undergoing training at the Accra Rehabilitation Center in 1982.
“I never wanted to become a burden to my family and society at large, so I decided to train and become an entrepreneur instead of begging on the streets like many of my fellow disabled persons do,” said Odey Mensah.
“I believe in being self-reliant and needed to set examples to other disabled persons to work hard and earn a decent living instead of relying on other people for survival.”
The father of five takes good care of his family through his shoemaking business and working hard to expand the trade across the capital and beyond.
“Everyone was created with potentials and there is always dignity in laboring to cater for one’s self rather than stooping so low to beg on the streets,” said the man.
“I make as much as five sandals every day and able to make a decent amount each day to take care of my children’s education, the family’s upkeep as well as other disabled persons whom I assist occasionally.”
“The country required everyone to contribute their quota to national development, and setting up his business was part of efforts to foster growth especially within the private sector,” he said.
The business was not without challenges for Odey Mensah as he needed adequate financial and logistical support to expand and employ other persons to earn a decent living.
“I have over 80 persons under the ‘Hope for Disabled Persons Foundation’ and intend to employ them to avoid endangering their lives on the streets,” said Odey Mensah, urging the government to make available the 3 percent allocated to disabled persons in the District Assembly Common Fund to help start-ups like his company grow to employ more persons.
“The allocation is a laudable idea but in reality, we do not receive the funds and also struggling to get government’s auction cars through the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) to help distribute the slippers across the country,” said Odey Mensah.
“With the right support, I could get more raw materials to produce in large quantities and distribute across the country instead of relying solely on my small showroom which is outside the capital.
“He also called on the public to desist from denying disabled people jobs and consider them as assets to society while calling on persons with disabilities to stop begging on the streets as it could put their lives in danger. “Parents must also not abandon their disabled children but support them to reach their full potentials,” he added.