WATCH | NGO empowers refugee and migrant women with hairdressing and beauty courses

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  • The Jesuit Refugee Service is an NGO that offers beauty and hairdressing classes, mostly to refugee and migrant women.
  • About 200 women a year benefit from the year-long accredited courses based in Pretoria and Johannesburg. 
  • The organisation relies on international funding to run the programmes.

Pretoria-based NGO Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) is geared towards empowering refugees, migrants and South African women.

It offers year-long accredited cosmetology courses at its training centre. The centre offers skills development programmes to about 200 women.

"We cater to any vulnerable women. It's a full-year qualification and then afterwards they can choose to go into business and become self-employed or look for work at an existing establishment," Tereda van Heerden told News24. 

The women are taught the basics of the beauty industry, including how to do nails, massaging, facials, make-up, waxing and hairdressing. They also attend computer and English classes. 

Van Heerden said the centre decided to teach cosmetology courses because the industry had a high employment rate. 

Each one, teach one

"After they have passed the course within the year, those who are interested in business can choose, in the second year, to take some business modules and then we help and monitor them if they want to set up their own business," Van Heerden added. 

Beauty course facilitator Ofentse Nkumise said it was rewarding to see the women's success.

"To see their growth is amazing. Some come here not speaking a word of English and then a year later, they come back and tell you that they have found employment. Some [of the ladies] have been able to leave toxic relationships because they can use the skills they were taught to gain financial freedom," he said. 

Doris Obieke is a Nigerian national who migrated from Swaziland in 2016 after losing her businesses. She decided to join the JRS programme after hearing rave reviews from friends in Sunnyside, Pretoria. 

"I have learned a lot, and I am still learning. I have learned a lot character-wise, how to associate with people and deal with different characters. I have learned how to do hair because I was struggling," she said. 

Obieke hopes to open a spa in the future.

"We rather teach women how to fish and do something with their lives. We have seen some women who were into prostitution and doing drugs come here, get clean and turn their lives around, some starting their own business. We have seen single mothers being able to provide for their children," Van Heerden added.

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