South Africa: Hairdressing Success
24 September 2018

Yvonne (right) and Dunia (left) run their own hairdressing salon in Pretoria.

In 2008, Yvonne fled from Burundi with her five-year-old daughter. When she arrived, she didn’t know anyone and was given one week to stay in the country by Home Affairs. After many repeated visits, she gained status as an asylum-seeker. While in Burundi, Yvonne made money by selling food, but she did not have money to buy inventory to start selling again. She could not find work in South Africa for over one year. 

After three years, she heard about Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS), an international organization that aims to accompany, serve, and advocate for asylum-seekers, refugees, and displaced people. JRS assisted her with a monthly stipend for food and R3000 to start up her business. Again, she was selling food in the street, but she faced many problems, especially with the Metro Police, who confiscated her products. She then turned to making money by sewing and washing clothes for various clients.

In 2017, Yvonne joined the Hairdressing Class at the JRS Pretoria Skill Centre. There Yvonne learned the craft of hairdressing, gained an understanding of business management, and made connections with other classmates in the program. Upon graduating, Yvonne and her classmate, Dunia, opened up their own hairdressing salon in Pretoria. With their skills and start up materials from JRS, they were able to build a business. Both Yvonne and Dunia expressed gratitude for the support JRS offered them, saying “I feel nice because JRS helped me to support my family”. Though they face challenges, such as differentiating their services amongst many hairdressing salons in the complex, both Yvonne and Dunia said “we feel confident”. With one to three clients per day, the women are able to sustain their salon space and work toward financial independence.

Sarah Garwood

Intern Advocacy & Communications Officer, JRS South Africa

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