Eve Zalwango

Eve Zalwango did not know that it would be in the dust of wood that she would earn such a fulfilled living. She was going on about life as an IT specialist when, like they say, life happened.

First was the idea to only have her personally made furniture in her house. The only way to achieve that was going over to a workshop to make the furniture herself a luxury she did not have in terms of time except on weekends.

It is not an everyday experience to find a woman carpenter. Usually the few women you will find in a carpentry workshop will be involved in the finishing or other activities than dealing with the wood itself. It is even stranger finding a woman in the technical school studying carpentry. That was Eve’s experience as a student in India. While there, she was pursing an evening masters program which left her idle for the greater part of the day. As a foreign student, she was not allowed to work.

She had to find something to occupy that time. En route her university, there was a sculptor by the street. The old man did his work with a lot of love and displayed it on the street where the buyers would line up to buy it. Unfortunately, Eve could not speak the native language just as the gentleman could not speak English.

Even when she tried establishing communication, the gentleman was not as welcoming in the first place. He dismissed of her. During those few months of nudging, the gentleman had made a sculptor of her which he sold off. Eve was not about to give up. The sculptor realised the person he was dealing with was not about to back off. He took the trouble of introducing her to the school where had been a teacher himself. Eve was the only girl at the school not to mention the only non-Indian at that. “No woman has ever expressed interest in carpentry, why you?” asked the instructor every often. “Maybe you have never bothered to ask them if they are interested.” She would fire back. And indeed, by the time she left the school, four Indian girls had enrolled to take on carpentry.

On leaving India, Eve had both the masters degree she had gone to pursue plus a bonus of a carpentry and interior design course she had aced.

Unfortunately she did not get to practice the skills she had acquired as she had to make ends meet and carpentry did not seem viable at the moment. It took her a few years down the road until she crossed paths with a couple that run a workshop called Awaka. Much as she was to be hired as a business consultant, they gave her an opportunity of becoming a shareholder, an offer she took up with open arms.

The company registered bewildering growth both in the carpentry production and in terms of acceptance on the market. The founding directors opted out and the best person to carry the company forward was none other than the only shareholder available. She did not have all the money to buy them out but at least she had the will and it came to pass.

Awaka enumerated tremendous success under Eve’s capable hands. This success opened so many doors for her including becoming a 2015 Mandela Washington Fellow. Unfortunately, a new partnership went south which led to the end of her tenure in the company. But she was not yet done.

She picked up the pieces, dusted herself and soon she was crawling again. Earlier on, she had registered V Interiors, a company that was providing interior decoration services. She added the element of wood curving to it and she was good to go.

Four years later, V Interiors is a bold brand standing on its own producing quality service carpentry and interior décor services. Eve has built a brand that is making an independent mark in people’s homes and businesses. Today, she has opened doors for mentorship mainly for children and women interested in carpentry. Through the #FundiWomen programme, she is skilling women with carpentry skills. She hopes to have impacted over 300 women in the course of 5 years.

With a missing link in the carpentry value chain, there is still a lot of work to be done. Mind-set has stopped many people from joining the industry which stifles development.

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