"Due to my disability, I work harder so people don't look down on me.” – Deaf Nigerian Fashion Designer
To the ordinary eye, Chika Nwaokoro is a young, enterprising lady pursuing her dreams in Fashion Design in Ikorodu, a suburb in Lagos, Nigeria. However, a closer look will tell you there is something special about her - Chika suffers from hearing loss. In this interview, she opens up on her struggles and how she has been able to handle what life throws at her.
Can you tell us a little about yourself and your background?
My name is Nwaokoro Chika Judith from Lagos, Nigeria. I am the second in a family of five children. I am in my early thirties and graduated from secondary school in 2008. I must say that I am lucky to have a family that is very supportive of me, regardless of my hearing challenge.
What led you into Fashion Designing and how long have you been sewing?
From a young age, I have loved fashion. I love to look good and outstanding. Added to that, I am passionate about doing things that people will appreciate me for. That passion was what drove me into Fashion Design. I have been sewing for 13 years now and it has been a great experience for me.
What were your challenges about going into fashion?
When I took interest in honing my craft in Fashion Design, I was living with someone in Uyo State, Nigeria, and it was difficult for me because I had so much house chores to do and didn’t have enough time to attend classes. Thankfully, later on, I moved to Lagos where I had the opportunity and time to learn and get better at it.
How have you been able to handle the stereotypes and barriers that come with having hearing loss in your line of work?
Due to my disability, I work harder so that people wouldn't look down on me and learn to encourage myself more often.
How do you communicate with your clients?
Well, they write on paper for me and sometimes when I watch their mouth movement, I tend to know what they want and most times, they show me the style and describe what they want. My own role is to deliver on their request.
In the next five to ten years, where do you see yourself in the fashion industry?
I see me making it big, sewing for international models. I also see myself owning a big shop where people that can talk and those that cannot like me will be able to come under an umbrella and learn the art of Fashion Designing.
Do you think the government of your country is doing well to support the deaf community? What advice do you have for them?
Hmmm… Not at all! The government has neglected the deaf community. There are no opportunities, no facilities, no plans for us.
The government needs to provide adequate resources and facilities for us so that those of us willing to learn and become graduates and professionals will benefit from it and be accepted into the society.
What advice do you have for other young persons like you who want to go into fashion or any industry at all?
My advice for them is that whatever they find their hands doing, they should do it well because at the end, they will appreciate it. They should not let what society thinks of them affect their dreams. They should be hardworking and put in their best.
What is your favourite life quote?
You just can't let life happen to you, you have to make life happen.
Any final words?
Never forget that short cuts make long delays.