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Meet Kano physically challenged duo making a living through cap washing

With tales of ability in disability reverberating across the globe, Musa Ibrahim and Alasan Muhammadu – two young men united from childhood by their disabilities,…

With tales of ability in disability reverberating across the globe, Musa Ibrahim and Alasan Muhammadu – two young men united from childhood by their disabilities, made a tortuous journey from their villages to Kano city for Qur’anic studies and upon completion of their studies, decided to remain in the city, but not like many other persons with disabilities, who depend solely on alms to make a living. The duo became self-employed in their little but lucrative business of cap washing. In this encounter with Daily Trust, the duo speaks about their struggles and how they take care of their families, parents and relatives with their cap washing business, despite their disabilities.

Born in Yatsi and Kungu villages of Bichi Local Government Area of Kano State, Ibrahim and Muhammadu said they started washing caps from their childhoods in their leisure time but fully invested in the business after finishing their Qur’anic studies. With the business, they said they are happily married with children and have no plans to change to any other business. They are rather planning to invest more in it.

Although they are not from the same family and were also not born with disabilities, the duo said they were raised to see themselves as cripples. According to them, their parents had told them that it happened when they were kids due to a mysterious illness.

Through cap washing, they feel the same as other people with no disability, as they relate with different types of people who admire their struggle for survival. They said the way people encourage and mingle with them is what prevented them from begging for alms.

“We never thought of going into begging because we see it as a bad thing and something that may likely put us at risk of becoming useless to ourselves and the society. But as you can see with this business, we are even supporting those that have no disability aside from our parents, family and relatives,” Muhammadu, popularly known as Tata, said.

Musa Ibrahim and Alasan Muhammadu


He added: “I got married through this business, bought a farm, I feed my family and my parents, and I also bought animals which I am presently raising, all from this cap washing business. So, the business has made me earn even more than some normal people and own what they don’t have at all.”

For Ibrahim, known as Gurgu (cripple), through cap washing he was able to marry two wives who gave him four children and a lot of other social amenities. He said because of him, people have changed their perception about people with disabilities.

“I have been in the business for over ten years. I have two wives and four children and I take care of them, as well as my parents. I also support many of my relatives through this business,” he added.

Speaking on the business and the way it is done, the cap washers said they learned the processes from their boss, who tolerated them with their disabilities and thought them the art of washing caps. From the time they learned, each of them often washes up to 100 caps in a day and each is done at the rate of N200.

“Our boss, Malam Labaran, was very supportive; he saw ability in our disability. He used to tell us when we were learning that once we shun begging and work hard, the sky is our limit. We are now seeing what he used to tell us then. We have to commend him for that because he stood up to all the rigors and supported us to be independent,” Ibrahim said.

On the challenges in the business, Muhammadu said “Cap washing is a bit challenging honestly as we cannot move freely with our two hands. We have to hold our stick with both hands, but when we are doing our work, we manage to use one hand to hold the cap where necessary. For washing and applying starch and ironing, we do it while sitting on a chair. But for the drying, we have to stand up and hold the cap with one hand. With the help of our colleagues here, we are making it. Any heavy load that we cannot carry, our colleagues would help us before we even inquire.

 “In a day, we usually wash up to 100 caps. That is for the washing only. But for applying the starch and ironing, it can take us three days to finish 100 caps. So roughly in three days, you can wash 100 making N20,000. Remember we buy water, starch, charcoal, and other equipment and materials. But we thank God because we earn a lot honestly.”

According to them, the business usually booms during Sallah festivities, Maulud and during weddings. “But there is no season that we live without work, people come every day. However, during the rainy season, we visit our villages for farm activities. It is also a difficult time for the business because caps don’t dry on time during the period.”

Still, on the challenges they face in the business, they said it is majorly how people will leave their caps with them without collecting after they have finished working.

“We will finish their work, put inside nylon and they will not come to collect them. Some people leave us with their caps for weeks or even months. If they do that, they tie down our money.

“Another challenge is competing with those who use modern materials and methods to wash caps. Some places have raised their prices to N500 but cannot even work as perfectly as ours. So, we desire to modernize our business so that our patronage and income will increase.”

They said they have big plans for their business and would love to have their dreams come true. They also want to modernize their shop to look better and compete with trending cap washing places that are attractive to customers.

“All we want is to make it as beautiful as it is supposed to be because if not for the fact that we are good at the work, some of our customers would have stopped patronizing us. But they see that we are better than those operating from flashy places. Packaging is our only challenge. So, we will love to be supported to have our shop beautified with modern materials for cap washing.”

Another big plan they have is to mentor and teach others, especially the youth, so they can be self-reliant. They said although they have started, what they are doing is not enough as they have only been able to teach their younger brothers, adding that they need to mentor people outside their family circle.

“We mentored two of our brothers and they are now successfully making it through the business. In fact, they are married and they have no disability. Therefore, we want to mentor others too. We want to prove to the world that if one is serious and hardworking, he can survive with the business,” Ibrahim said.

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