Days when society defined roles according to one’s gender are flying away like dry chaff during an eastern summer wind.
With unemployment rates in the country soaring to an all time high, jobless youths have now decided to venture into sectors that were hitherto deemed almost a taboo depending on one’s sexual orientation.
Take for instance Caroline Mbevi who works at the Sweet Memories Barber shop located within Machakos CBD.
Mbevi is among a growing number of women who have decided to tackle the challenge of unemployment by taking up chores that were hitherto a preserve for men.
She says as far as she knows ,giving men haircuts is what has been providing her daily bread since she completed a course in Cosmetology and Beauty Therapy at a Machakos institute two years ago.
She said after graduation, she landed a job at the stall after the owner agreed to take her in alongside two others.
However, Mbevi declined to reveal to us how much she earns at the end of month though she disclosed that her dream is to open her own barber shop in future.
“I decided to get into this profession right after finishing my training in beauty therapy and cosmetology right here in Machakos. For me luck apparently was on my side after someone agreed to hire me to work in his barber parlor, an undertaking that I passionately love doing,” she explained to us when we visited her place of work.
Mbevi has been here for the last two years and this business has almost become part of her life.
Now she can meet her daily needs and at least have a job to talk about in contrast to thousands of jobless youths scattered across the four winds of the country.
Apart from shaving, Mbevi is also an expert in manicure and pedicure services. Her clients are mostly women though sometimes men also come to seek services.
To ensure she stands up from the crowd, she makes sure her clients get a cut above the best. And she does it in a style that will prompt the client to want to come back another day.
“I always ensure my client is comfortable and safe any time I serve them. Our charges are similarly pocket -friendly to ensure they are not beyond the reach of the public,” she explains,adding charges range between Sh150 for a simple hair cut and Sh300 for those going for facial scrubs.
A full head touch including, pedicure, manicure and facial treat goes for Sh1, 000.
And one needs not be worried about a sudden power outage as the premise has a ready battery to take care of such emergencies.
But Mbevi says dealing with clients requires a delicate balancing act wrought with great patience.
“For a barber to meet the needs of the many people who visit their shops, one should ensure the language and services she offers are above board; otherwise a slight negligence may cost you a string of potential clients and spell doom for your business,” she noted.
“Clients need to be attended with utmost care right from the manner you speak to them up to the level of hygiene standards they get. In addition, some of the services we offer require much patience and it’s our responsibility to make sure this is well understood by the customer,” she adds.
But not all has been rosy for Mbevi. Just like any profession, challenges are not new in her two year occupation. Surprisingly, some of her most ardent critics are close friends and family members who would otherwise be providing a shoulder on which to lean on.
But for Mbevi, the greatest disappointment is instances where a client leaves the premises unsatisfied at her service. She says this is her worst fear that she tries a much as possible to avoid.
“My work has exposed me to a myriad of challenges and disappointments including from my own family members and friends who are uncomfortable with what I do. But the most painful moment for me was an instance where a customer was dissatisfied with my work and just walked out as I watched,” she recalled.
But for now, she is contented with the goings and is looking forward to better times as she plans to continue dispensing her duties as a barber.
Meanwhile, as her parting shot for those intending to venture into the job market Mbevi simply says, “Undertake what you love and not what is on offer.”
By Daniel Kalii/Winnie Kavita