- Mabel Suglo, 23, is co-founder of Eco-Shoes, a company that employs people with disabilities and creates eco-friendly and fashionable footwear
- Mabel was inspired by her grandmother who, despite her illness and subsequent ostracism, still managed to work and feed her family
- Mabel's project was named second runner-up in the Anzisha Prize
A 23-year-old Ghanaian woman has been a source of inspiration and hope for many in the disabled community. Her shoe-manufacturing company is creating jobs and changing livelihoods of many.
Mabel Suglo's late grandmother had leprosy but was still able to cultivate food crops on a piece of land to feed her children and grandchildren. Her grandmother was stigmatised and marginalised in her community but carried on nevertheless.
Mabel remembers how this gave her the passion to do something about a scene she saw in the Kumasi township, where a physically challenged guy begged for money but all he received was insults.
She went over to this man, interacted with him and got to know that he went to a vocational school and graduated as an artisan from school, but due to lack of capital, he couldn't do anything to set up. And once his family saw him to be a burden, he tried to make ends meet by begging on the streets, also trying to help his family.
This was what lay the foundation for the Eco-Shoes Initiative in 2013. The company makes footwear and bags out of upcycled car tires and fabric waste - something that was inspired by Mabel's grandmother, too!
The car tyre rubber, Mabel notes, breeds mosquitoes when they harbour water, and pollutes the air when burnt - which can lead to respiratory tract infections and diseases. But her grandmother gave her an idea. Because car tires are durable, she and farmers in the Upper West region used to make shoes for working on their farms.
The Eco-Shoes initiative seeks to economically empower the physically challenged, enables them take ownership of their lives and also teaches Ghanaians not to marginalise and stigmatised people living with disabilities.
Due to its huge social impact, the Eco-Shoe manufacture was named second runner-up in the 2015 Anzisha Prize, Africa’s premier award for young entrepreneurs.
Mabel Suglo says she has been able to employ several other disabled people into her company. This has led to increased production from 500 to 1,500 items daily.
Watch video about Mabel's award winning Eco-Shoes company: