The saying that ‘what a man can do a woman can do better,’ is sure not fiction. The maxim is actually holding sway for a woman, who has plunged herself deeply into a man’s profession and she is not looking back and not doing badly at all. That can be said to be the driving force behind the story of Anih Blessing John, a female painter based in Abuja, striving to make a name for herself in a profession dominated by men.
Anih John, a 26-year old single lady, says she has nothing to fear engaging in a man’s job, especially one as tedious and daring as house painting. Indeed, her dexterity in handling the brush and climbing heights bring to the fore her determination to excel in the art of polishing homes and offices. And she comes across with an air of authority in doing her job in the past two years.
Although she could not further her education on account of poor funding, Anih, has decided to make ends meet using the instrumentality of the brush without qualms. She had tried other menial jobs before finally settling down to do the job of beautifying homes and offices as a painter. She can be described as one of a kind. In Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, where she plies her trade, she becomes a cynosure of some sort when she adorns herself with a coverall and carries her brush and is set for action.
Her story is that of someone who does not want to give up just like that. After leaving secondary school, Anih could no longer further her education due to the fact that there was no one to help. She decided to do menial jobs. She went from selling plumbing materials to selling recharge cards. It was during the period of selling the cards that she came across a friend who was into painting and decided to join him.
Two years into the male-dominated trade, Anih admits she is very proud to have made the decision to be a painter. She loves the job to the extent that she does not think she could easily trade it for another.
Recounting how she got into painting, John said she needed money and the only way to get it was to get up and do something useful since her dad who is a Disc Jockey and her mum who sells Okpa, a sort of bean cake, in Enugu State could no longer further her education.
“After my secondary School education in Enugu State, I came to Abuja to live with my elder sister since there was nobody to help further my education,” she opened up to Saturday Vanguard.
“The only way to survive was to get something that brings me money. I ventured into jobs like selling plumbing materials and phone booth business, and then I met a friend called Zaccheus. We call him “The Lion”, who was into painting and I decided to join him and he taught me the job. I’ve been doing this for the past two years and I love my job because it brings me satisfaction.”
Beyond the circumstances that pushed her into painting, Anih says she prefers doing things different from what other women are doing.
“I need money to enable me to meet my needs and the way I know I can get it is through hard work,” she says.
Anih, who hails from Enugu State, says she prefers painting to any other job because it not only pays her well but also affords her time to do other things.
“I would encourage my female siblings to go into painting because apart from the fact that you do not have to go to work every day, it also affords you time to do other things since you are not working for anyone and you also make a lot of money from painting. For instance, I could make what some people make in a month in just a week.”
Sitting in one place like some housewives do must not be part of Anih. Action is more like it especially when one controls her time.
When asked if she had any fear about falling from the top of buildings while painting, Anih explains that it takes the mind and believing in yourself to do a job such as this and everyone-whether male or female- is at a high risk of falling.
“Everyone doing this job is at the risk of falling; not just me, even the men. It takes the mind to do a job like this. I believe if these men can climb and not fall, I can also do it,” she says.
Anih also recalled her most challenging experience on the job. She said “My most challenging day as a painter was in Port Harcourt. It was more like slavery to me. There was no money at the site and most of the time we went to bed hungry. Being that it was a contract, we had to find a way to survive and complete the job. We usually picked up corns from farms in order to feed. It wasn’t as challenging for me as it was for the men.”
Anih said she prays and hopes that in the next five years as a painter, God will give her big projects to work on as a major contractor. By so doing, she hopes to realize enough money to take a break to further her education.
In spite the rigours of the job, Anih does not entertain any fear that the work can expose her to any health issue. For that reason, she has never contacted any doctor to seek their opinion on the kind of work she does. But to convince herself that she is on the right track, she has a little research on possible health implications and she found no health risk associated with her job. She, however, knows that she must always be decked in her coverall and protective gloves and also cover her nose properly to prevent inhaling anything while painting.
She quips: “I haven’t consulted any doctor as to how this job can affect my health but I have done some research online and found out that there is no risk associated with the job as long as I cover my body, my face and hands with protective materials.”
She says she would have been a writer if she had her way to further her education. “Apart from painting, I also love to write. When I have no job to do, that is, during my off days, I sit and write. I’m working on completing my first novel about an uneducated girl who was forced into marrying an already, her travails and how she surmounted the challenges.
One thing upsets Anih: she does not feel happy seeing other women sitting at home complaining and waiting for a man to assist them financially.
Her words: “I don’t feel comfortable seeing some women sitting at home, waiting for a man to open a shop for them or to provide for their basic needs. I would therefore, advise and encourage women to go into painting because what a man can do as long as he can do it with his hands, we women too are capable; it only takes hard work and determination.”