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The busy schedule of modern Ethiopian women who run businesses and have entered the labour market has changed the traditional custom of braiding a girl’s hair.


Mekdes Solomon, a 29-year-old mother, runs a lighting supply business in Piassa, Arada, commuting from her home in Bole District.

She owns a shop that sells lighting materials and accessories where she spends much of her time.

A mother of a seven-year-old girl, Milena, Mekdes cannot find the time to braid her daughter's hair regularly as she is kept busy at her shop during the week, and her weekends are occupied by social engagements that are a big part of community life in Ethiopia.

She tried to braid her daughter's hair every morning, a task that took at least half an hour of her busy morning schedule, but she soon abandoned the habit.

Now she takes Milena to children's hair salons, businesses that specialise in children’s hair and cosmetic needs. The décor of these businesses is geared toward children with colourful art, toys and furnishings for their clientele  .

Milena enjoys going to these salons, since she can play with the toys provided, while the hairdresser braids her hair.

"I don't want to take her to adult salons," said Mekdes. "The atmosphere and conversations are not suited for children and may negatively influence my daughter."

Though the customary thing is for Ethiopian mothers to braid their daughters' hair, Mekdes and other busy families have to contend with juggling their time and seem to have found a modern solution to the problem of properly caring for their children’s hair.



The custom of mothers braiding their daughters’ hair has been replaced by kids hair salons that cater exclusively to children.


Ever since Milena started school three years ago, her mother has been taking her to different children's hair salons, including Kiddy Universal Hair Salon located on the third floor of Edna Mall.

Kiddy Universal Hair Salon, which opened its doors four months ago, works on both boys and girls and offers braiding, manicure and barber services.

The salon charges up to 130 Br for braiding, 100 Br for different hairstyles and 30 Br for a manicure. The price can go up depending on additional services like hair washing, coloring and applying decorations on girls' hair.

Aside from their regular visits to the salons, Milena and her mother get their hair done for holidays and festivities.

Once Milena's hair is braided, it is good for a week or two, which comes as a relief to her mother.

These salons are busy during the weekends, especially on Sundays, while business is slow during the week. Few families, it seems, take their children to the salons after work or after school hours.


Another salon that provides services for children is Martha Kids Salon, which opened six years ago and is located near Bole Bridge close to Brass Hospital. The business, dedicated to children’s cosmetic needs, charges 60 Br to 70 Br to dress a child's hair.

"We also apply different accessories to the hair for special occasions, such as birthdays and holidays," said Mihret Alemu, a hairdresser at Marta Kids Salon.




The salon is also kept busy during the weekends, birthday parties, graduations and during various school events.

Hairdressing kids requires special care and attention, according to Mihret.

"We have to have special persuasive skills and patience when braiding children's hair, unlike adults," she said.

Another popular kids salon in the capital is Shalod Kids Salon located around Bisrate Gebriel area. Founded by Yonas Yemane, the salon has been in business for the past three years.

Yonas had invested 200,000 Br to open the salon, including procuring the equipment and decorations with themes that appeal to kids.

Listening to the regular quarrel between his wife and daughter during hair braiding sessions motivated him to open a kids salon, he said.

As his wife has a busy schedule, she braids her daughter's hair at night. The daughter finds this disagreeable, which leads to nightly arguments between daughter and mother.

"To avoid these squabbles, I started to take my daughter to hair salons," he said.


But the challenge he faced was where to take his kid. There are only a few kids hair salons, and even those operating were located far from his residence, according to Yonas.

"I realized that there is a demand for these salons," he told Fortune.

Shalod has a dedicated room equipped with toys, board games and television screens that play children’s movies. The girls play while they wait their turn at the hairdresser, and the room serves as a waiting area until their families return to pick them up.

Families can leave their children, some of them as young as one year old, at the salon, where they are attended by the workers, according to Yonas.

It takes one to two hours to braid a child’s hair, depending on the style, size of their hair and the behaviour of the kid.

Yonas says that handling and treating children properly is an essential part of the job that requires special skills from the hairdressers. Yonas claims that he is careful recruiting employees, looking for workers who are good at handling children.

Emebet Hailu, a hairdresser at Kiddy Universal Hair Salon, shares Yonas's view.

The children could refuse the service in the middle of the braiding, saying they want to play, according to Emebet.

"We don't say no when they want to play," Emebet said. "We wait for them with patience until they are willing to continue with the braiding."



PUBLISHED ON Apr 26,2019 [ VOL 20 , NO 991]






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