Recognising Scovia's potential
Scovia took part in our inclusive livelihoods project in Uganda. She tells us about setting up her own salon and how she adapted during the coronavirus pandemic.
Scovia grew up in Northern Uganda. She has a physical disability resulting from an illness she had when she was four. This affected both of her legs, making it hard to move around and travel far from home. Her parents sent her to school up to senior four. Scovia faced challenges at school too, where other children bullied her because of her disability.
Scovia was unable to continue her education after that, as her family could not pay for her to continue to advanced high school level or take a course. She spent one year at home supporting her parents with household chores and brewing local alcohol for sale without pay. She was keen to find employment and earn money; however, a lack of skills, discrimination and negative stereotypes against women with disabilities in her community prevented her from finding a job. Her community regarded her as useless – someone who could do nothing for herself or her parents.
Scovia felt demoralised: “I have never felt so low in my life like the period I faced in between those months. No money, no food, rejected by my community and my own family. I definitely knew I wasn’t going to survive!”.
Joining the project
But things all changed for Scovia when Cheshire Services Uganda selected her as one of the beneficiaries of the inclusive livelihoods project. The project, delivered in partnership with Cheshire Services Uganda, aimed to build the confidence of young women with disabilities in the Adjumani district. Through skills training, the project supported women to gain essential skills that could increase their livelihoods opportunities and help them gain an income.
Scovia received six months of hairdressing training from Moyo Community Polytechnic (a vocational Institute) and business skills training from the livelihoods project staff. Since childhood, she had always thought of being a beautician and hairdressing was her particular choice. This was also strengthened by the career guidance she received before she started the training, which emphasised the value of developing skills for which there was a good demand, such as hairdressing.
She says: “Things changed immediately I joined the training; first, I was elected the head girl managing all female students, including non-disabled students, at the Institute. I also composed the Institute’s Anthem, because of the confidence and self-esteem I gained from the project.”
Setting up her own salon
After completing her training, the project supported her with a start-up kit that contained the tools she needed to start her own salon, including a sink, dryer, chemicals, braids, towels and rollers. The project also provided her with elbow crutches which improved her mobility.
Now equipped with these essentials and her new business skills, Scovia moved out of her parent’s home and established her salon at Ayilo Refugee Settlement in the Adjumani district. She named the salon ‘Gracious Beauty Salon, Ayilo.’
How Scovia's life has changed
Since the project, Scovia has completely turned her life around. Through her business, Scovia has been able to earn a steady living, sometimes making large profits in a day depending on the number of customers. She can now buy food, clothes, and medication, pay rent for her salon and send some of her earnings back home to her parents. She is even able to save a good amount each week.
Scovia has also been investing back in her business using her business acumen. She’s bought a generator and various other hairdressing materials. She has enrolled in further education and hopes to get a diploma in hairdressing. She has taken on two trainees, and she has also employed someone to help with serving her customers.
Her community no longer sees her as useless. Many people now come to her for advice, and she’s been invited to speak at seminars. She’s also giving back to her community: her business is operating in a refugee camp, and many girls and women are now coming to her for advice on becoming a hairdresser. And she’s also having a lot more fun – she’s often invited to sing at parties, which never used to happen before!
Impact of the project
Scovia says: “I’m so very much delighted to be among the few empowered young women with disabilities in Adjumani. My self-esteem is high. I have proved many people in my community wrong through my capabilities and achievements, and I’m inspiring many to look up to me and to believe they can do something for themselves just like me.
“The transformation I have received as a result of the training and start-up from Leonard Cheshire has been life-changing. The self-confidence, something I had lost because of my disability, has now been restored. I see myself as someone of value, not only to me but my community. It is a privilege to be able to provide a service to the same people who thought I was useless. Every day as I work in this salon, I remind them that just because we are disabled does not mean we lack ability. We hold tremendous potential, and all it took for that to be seen in me was this project.”
While Scovia’s business has been expanding steadily, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, she had to temporarily close her salon due to government directives on various businesses, including hairdressing salons.
Scovia said: “There was no hairdressing business, I was not plaiting and doing hair treatment due to the government’s directive of closing all salons.”
Looking to the future
However, the excellent customer base and working relations built with the customers helped Scovia to continue earning income. During lockdown, she depended on the supply and sale of various types of hair weaves to her customers, who continued to approach her remotely on the phone. The profits from this meant she could keep paying the monthly rent for her salon and meet the costs of her needs. She also has made enough from sales to re-invest and purchase more weaves, which she will continue to sell.
In the future, she plans to buy land, build her own house, and buy a car. “I look at having a good family with the boyfriend I met. He respects, appreciates and believes in me and we hope to get married soon,” she concludes.
Scovia was supported by the Inclusive Livelihoods Project, implemented by Cheshire Services Uganda in partnership with Leonard Cheshire. Together they have been implementing a three-year livelihoods project targeting women with disabilities in the district of Adjumani, Northern Uganda. Since February 2018, the women have been supported in agribusiness, provided services in tailoring, garment cutting, hairdressing, knitting, weaving, arts and crafts and baking.