The Chechen Beauty School
Birlant, a 29-year-old resident of Urus-Martan, a district in Chechnya about 30 kilometers from the capital, Grozny, recently graduated from a vocational training course run by the International Rescue Committee and its partner organization, Patriot, with the support of USAID. She never could have afforded to take the course privately, and she would have had little opportunity to practice or earn a recognized certificate of qualification.
“I always enjoyed giving my friends manicures, and so when I heard about the chance to study to become a professional manicurist I leaped at it” Birlant says.
While honing her skills in class, Birlant decided that she would like to set up her own salon. She sold some jewelry to rent a room at the back of a clothing store, and in her spare time renovated the space and set up equipment. Then she convinced her classmate, Milana, to work in the salon as a hairdresser.
Before opening the shop, Birlant made a little money working at the local market, which she added to her mother’s small pension to support a family of seven which lost almost everything during the second Chechen war. Now Birlant takes in 1,500 rubles (about 60 U.S. dollars) a day. And she is seeing repeat customers like Indira, who lives in Grozny but tried Birlant’s salon when she was in Urus-Martan. Indira is so happy with the quality of Birlant’s work that she makes the journey from Grozny especially for a manicure from Birlant.
Encouraged by her success, Birlant has launched an advertising campaign and is planning for a cosmetologist to join her staff.
“I feel wonderful,” she says, noting the difference the income makes to her family. “I am independent and I can help my family … I am equal to anyone.”