Imagine having a dream and the determination to achieve it but facing obstacles that prevent you from taking even a single step forward. Judith Onza Eyoa realized that this was the reality for many people with walking disabilities in Arua district, Northern Uganda, until she decided to change things.
Driven by a powerful vision, Judith Onza Eyoa established "AfriShoe Uganda" at the age of 25, a venture that crafts custom footwear that caters to the needs of individuals with walking disabilities. Judith’s journey was catalyzed when she was chosen as a recipient of the Jim Leech Mastercard Foundation Fellowship on Entrepreneurship in January 2023, a program designed to provide training, resources, financial support and a network of mentors to develop entrepreneurial skills and start building their own venture. Judith had just returned to Uganda after completing her master’s degree at BRAC University in Bangladesh. Little did Judith know that this opportunity would pave the way for her to start building her venture.
“My experience [in the Jim Leech Mastercard Foundation Fellowship] has been so beautiful, engaging, intense and life changing. I joined the program when I had just completed my master's at 25 years from Asia and didn't know what I would do upon my return to Uganda. I got so lucky to be selected as a fellow on the program for which I am so passionate and grateful for.”
Judith’s venture addresses a pressing issue: the lack of accessible and affordable footwear for people with walking disabilities in Uganda.
AfriShoe Uganda traces its roots to Judith's personal experiences. Judith's father faced immense challenges in finding suitable shoes for his condition. As there were no custom-made shoes locally and the imported ones were exorbitantly expensive, he felt disappointed and discouraged.
Fueled by her father’s struggle and with guidance from the Fellowship, Judith conducted thorough research, adopting design thinking methods to identify the specific challenges faced by individuals with walking disabilities in the Arua district, Northern Uganda. The result was AfriShoe Uganda, a company committed to crafting affordable, durable, and customized footwear using locally available materials like recycled car tires and leather. Each pair is tailored to the customer's unique disability, promoting better mobility and comfort.
AfriShoe Uganda has gained momentum in Arua and is supported by various stakeholders, including district disability officers, disability forums, and the Jim Leech Mastercard Foundation Fellowship team. The company has already hired three employees and envisions expanding its reach across Uganda.
Beyond AfriShoe Uganda, Judith's journey continues as she mentors and trains fellow social entrepreneurs and start-ups in Uganda.
AfriShoe Uganda's story is a testament to the power of entrepreneurship and its potential to transform lives and build a more inclusive society. As Judith forges ahead with her vision, she will continue to benefit from the network and support of the Jim Leech Mastercard Foundation Fellowship.
AfriShoe Uganda was part of the 2023 Jim Leech Mastercard Foundation Fellowship on Entrepreneurship cohort. They make affordable, accessible and high-quality customized shoes for the disabled in Arua, Northern region.