8 August 2014

Rwanda: Young Women Succeed in Male Dominated Jobs

Through education, young women are becoming empowered and finding that they can excel in any field. The country's efforts to achieve gender equality have paid off, with new opportunities opening for women to improve the economic conditions for themselves and their families.

Emelyne Uwiringiyimana did not manage to finish school beyond primary level, but she is now a barber in Kigali after learning it from her elder brother.

After dropping out of school, Uwiringiyimana and her siblings lost their parents and struggled to get by as orphans. In the village where she has born, she joined a vocational training center in Gahini sector of Kayonza district in 2009.

She now works as a barber, cutting men's hair and shaving beards. An occupation, she knows, where one rarely finds a woman.

"Today, I am proud of myself," says Uwiringiyimana. "At first I had no idea what I was doing, but I had confidence and unexpectedly, I find myself liking it very much. I am performing even better than I expected."

Uwiringiyimana explains that customers are interested in a woman cutting men's hair, and they increase day by day because she treats them well. Among her customers are regulars and newcomers alike, but 90% of them are those coming back.

She adds that when she first began her work in 2010, she was rather hesitant since it's unusual to see women working in a men's salon. "At first I was very shy but now I am grateful," Uwiringiyimana says.

At her salon, she works with ten other barbers, and she says it has given her dignitiy in her daily life. She is now able to pay the school fees of her small brothers and take care of her personal issues; she is even considering to open her own business.

Alphonsine Barakagwiza works with Uwiringiyimana after receiving the same vocational training from the Workforce Development Agency. She notes that hairdressing courses are not shameful as some young women think, and it provides her with good money. Any young woman who is willing, she says, can find work in this profession.

Angelique Nyirahabineza, the owner of this hair salon where these young women work, agrees. "To employ these ladies as barbers is not embarrassing, because they are proud of what they doing, they are happy to reach their goals."


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