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One woman's dream: Hairdresser in Cameroon challenges status quo

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Hailing from a humble background, Ms. Josephine Mbasso Ezoy has always been passionate about education. But early in life the chapter closed: at 14, she lost her father, and she was given for marriage.

With her basic education, Ms. Ezoy thought she would find solace in marriage, and maybe pursue her studies further. Unfortunately she was wrong. After more than eight years in an abusive marriage, she finally separated from her husband in 1999.

Although many years had passed, Ms. Ezoy held on to the dream she had had since she was a girl. She became a student and more.

Popularly known as Tata, Ms. Ezoy, now 35, is also a mum, business woman, ethical social entrepreneur, and a professional hairstylist, whose saloon is also a center for activism on women's sexual and reproductive rights.

Today, she lives and works in Buea, which is the cosmopolitan capital city of the southwest region of Cameroon.

It was Ms. Ezoy’s determination and passion about education that led her to where she is now.

After her divorce, though moneyless, she didn’t feel disadvantaged. She embraced her situation and sought jobs as a restaurant receptionist and attendant.

Then later on she became a hostess (and usher) for some multimedia companies. All this movement from one job to the next lasted for some years.

By 2002, through her commitment and hard work, she succeeded in raising half a million FCFA (USD $1,250), which she used partly to sponsor her salon training.

Even as an apprentice hairstylist, Ms. Ezoy was very unique. Because of her commitment and passion in hairdressing she benefited from some special considerations, which trainers sometimes give their trainees.
She was granted the option to pay her fees in installments. In addition, she was also offered partial employment to compensate for the other parts of her practical and theoretical fees.

This privilege enabled Ms. Ezoy to use the other parts of her savings to buy some start-up equipment: a dryer, rollers, combs, salon chair, washing basin and living expenses inclusive.

By 2004, Ms. Ezoy opened her own salon. A year later she began accepting apprentices and co-workers, given preference to single moms, orphans and women from humble backgrounds.

“Though my saloon is for profit-making, I prefer to help those who don’t have anything than those who can afford their daily bread”, Ms. Ezoy said.

Two years after she opened her salon, Ezoy enrolled in a secondary school in Buea. Her enrollment came as a surprise to her peers, family(in particular her male siblings) and colleagues. Some saw her educational investment as a waste of time and resources.

Even her own 13-year-old son once said: “Mother your role is to stay at home, care for me, my brother and sister and not to go to school. Children go to school not mothers”.

And in response to her son who thought that a mother’s role was to stay home, she said: “Whenever your teachers invite me for PTA meetings and I quietly sit down, unable to make any contribution, nor even to write on the sheet of papers that circulates in the hall, how do you feel about it? What do you think your friends and their family think of me?”

And in spite of the shocking reaction from her friends and family, Ms. Ezoy remained focused on her education. Also, despite all the myths and stereotypes about hairstylists and salons, she never felt dampened by them in becoming a professional and educated hairstylist.

Contrary to her family, peers and colleagues, Ms. Ezoy sees her education as an investment and not a waste of time and resources. She also believes that education is very essential to all hairstylists, besides just being creative and innovative in styling hair, there is also the aspect that brings inner joy to clients and lasting happiness to all sorts of community persons; educated or not. And this, according to Ms. Ezoy is beyond physically transforming people’s looks.

“We do our hair every day. Everybody loves looking good, beautiful…for beauty is love. It brings joy and peace of mind”, said Ms. Ezoy. “So, if I am not educated, how can I read and understand some hair products instruction that clients bring to me? How can I even satisfy my clients and make them happy?” she said. “You see I need to be educated”,

In 2009, once more, Ms. Ezoy made another giant transition by bringing activism into hairdressing salons when she stood as a volunteer and encouraged some of her colleagues to get involved in the three-year joint ACMS (Association Camerounaise Marketing Social) and UAFC (Universal Access to Female Condoms) Project that was brought to Buea.

Using her life experience as an example, Ms. Ezoy advised young women and her hair clients to not become victims like her, but to be in control over their sexual and reproductive rights. And thus becoming the author of their sexuality and personal relationship.

Her involvement with the ACMS-UAFC Project has enabled her to reach over 3,000 women (both clients and non-clients) on a one-on-one basis inside and outside of the salon. And she has given around 20 group educational talks on the correct and systematic use of female condoms, as well as on negotiation skills for a happy and intimate relationship.

Also, under her leadership as a hairstylist, she has trained up to 10 young women hairstylists and has employed over the years 12 co-workers.

In a conversation, one of her co-workers, Lizette, expressed contentment and a good working relationship with Ms. Ezoy. “Tata respects her agreement, unlike other employers I have worked with”.

Mirabel, a trainee, also made similar remarks on the work ethic and empathy demonstrated by Ms. Ezoy. Mirabel shared her experience as a single mom and how Ms. Ezoy understands her challenges. “As a single mother, I have to take my son to [and] from school and cook for him, besides fulfilling my duty here in the salon”.

This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future a program of World Pulse that provides rigorous new media and citizen journalism training for grassroots women leaders. World Pulse lifts and unites the voices of women from some of the most unheard regions of the world.

Ms Ezoy College Graduation Pic (May 2011)
Female Condom Awareness Raising Workshop, Ms Ezoy Facilitating
Ms Ezoy and Colleague
Activism in the Hair Saloon

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Comments

olutosin's picture

Great!

This is encouraging...Well articulated and Thanks for recognising her efforts.

Olutosin Oladosu Adebowale
Founder/Project Coordinator
Star of Hope Transformation Centre
512 Road
F Close
Festac Town
Lagos-Nigeria

https:

zoneziwoh's picture

thank you so much dear

thank you so much dear sister. in deed, she needs to be recognized and thanks to platforms like these which would make one think critically.

Stay Blessed

Zoneziwoh

Blog: http://zofem.blogspot.com/

Facebook:Zoneziwoh Mbondgulo Wondieh

Twitter | Instagram: @ZoFem

usha kc's picture

Hi Ziwoh, wow!!!! sister,

Hi Ziwoh,
wow!!!! sister, I really enjoyed to read the Ezoy's successfull story,, inspiring ,inspiring and inspirng.

byt he way, congrats for completing 1st module.

zoneziwoh's picture

Thank you so much dear

Thank you so much dear sister. you know your words and remark are always very encouraging and inspiring. it was nice to read from you. we stay in touch. lets continue to keep the fly flaging high. women's voice must be heard in all the regions, angles on this planet.

Stay Blessed

Zoneziwoh

Blog: http://zofem.blogspot.com/

Facebook:Zoneziwoh Mbondgulo Wondieh

Twitter | Instagram: @ZoFem

noreens's picture

An inspiring lady.....good

An inspiring lady.....good job!

Noreen

zoneziwoh's picture

absolutely!!!

absolutely she is. Ms Ezoy is brave and truly inspiring. she isa woman with great vision and needs to be appreciated. I do hope that her story should be shared and read widely so as to encourage more hairdressers to believe in themselves and their skills.

Thanks for taking time to read through her story. it is lovely to know that you appreciate her works.

Stay Blessed

Zoneziwoh

Blog: http://zofem.blogspot.com/

Facebook:Zoneziwoh Mbondgulo Wondieh

Twitter | Instagram: @ZoFem

Carrie Lee's picture

Inspiring story!

The title of your post caught my attention, and I'm so glad I read it! Thanks for sharing one woman's story toward empowerment. These are the kinds of stories that empower us all!
Beautifully told!
Carrie

zoneziwoh's picture

amazing impresion

I am glad to hear that the title/ caption drew your attention. Wao, i will give credit to Anne D, my precious editor. she has been wonderful and supportive together with my mentor; Monica L. Together, we have work on this conecpt. her guidiance and technical support has been of immense impact to struggling this article, betterstill the outcome of this article.

once more, thanks

Stay Blessed

Zoneziwoh

Blog: http://zofem.blogspot.com/

Facebook:Zoneziwoh Mbondgulo Wondieh

Twitter | Instagram: @ZoFem

MaDube's picture

Great profile

Well done Ziwoh!!! Wow, I am really feeling the pressure. I only had my interview this morning and I have barely written a word on this assignment.I love your choice of an interviewee and the story is truly inspiring because it challenges the stereotype of hairdressers in most African countries as uneducated individuals, and also the streotype of hair salons as hotbeds of immorality where women plan to steal other women's husbands or engage in unprotected sex(at least in my country that stereotype exists). I shall print and share with the female hairdressers I know.

zoneziwoh's picture

Re: Great Profile

Dear Sister, it is nice reading from you after a long time. so how are you? how is work?

Well, just like you said, there is a misconception and wrong impression about hairdressers, not only in Zm but i think all over the continent. most people mistake them for low class citizen. and unfortunately these people fail to understand that these hairdressers play vital role in the society. and Ms Ezoy articulated the point very nicely in her story; "beauty brings happiness. looking good makes one happy". So the moment, people begin to understand and appreciate hairdressers role in the community as agent for change, the better shall our society become.

And that is why we need to work and represent their voice, story to the wider public. let their story be heard far and wide. let they be recognized and appreciated.

Thank for the remark and I am glad to know that you are going to share her story around. i am sure, many hairdresser would draw inspiration from her experience.

Stay Blessed

Zoneziwoh

Blog: http://zofem.blogspot.com/

Facebook:Zoneziwoh Mbondgulo Wondieh

Twitter | Instagram: @ZoFem

Celine's picture

Good Work

Good Work Ziwoh. You articulated the zeal and determination of your interviewee Ms Ezoy, it is encouraging and inspiring.

Well done for a good job.

Celine

zoneziwoh's picture

Re: Good Work

Thank you Celine. I am glad you share in Ms Ezoy's vision in changing the status quo. In deed, she is brave and inspiring. I remembered the first time, I came to know about her, she was so warmth and welcoming. And I feel honor to have help in sharing her story broadly.

Thanks

Stay Blessed

Zoneziwoh

Blog: http://zofem.blogspot.com/

Facebook:Zoneziwoh Mbondgulo Wondieh

Twitter | Instagram: @ZoFem

amiesissoho's picture

Enjoyed reading it

I like the style and more so the inspiration of the interviewee I enjoyed reading it. We need more women like her in our communities in creating alternatives to the dominant view point about women and taking leadership, especially in the saloons.

great article Zoneziwoh!

Amie

zoneziwoh's picture

We need more women like Ezoy-True!

Definitely!
Ezoy has re branded the entire idea of saloon women and hairdressing. she is an ideal figure and a role model for many women.

Stay Blessed

Zoneziwoh

Blog: http://zofem.blogspot.com/

Facebook:Zoneziwoh Mbondgulo Wondieh

Twitter | Instagram: @ZoFem

Courage's picture

AMAZING STORY

Hello Sister Ziwoh
Am very impressed with Ezoy success story. She is one of the African women who can really challenge the status quo. Am very impressed with her career as an activist on Women's Sexual reproductive right and i pray God should grant her the strength to continue with her vision. She is a wonderful saloonist.

Stay Blessed my Sister

zoneziwoh's picture

Thank you

Hello dear sister, many thanks for the supportive words. Ezoy is indeed very talented and inspiring. May God keep her growing. for she is the torch to her peers.

Stay Blessed

Zoneziwoh

Blog: http://zofem.blogspot.com/

Facebook:Zoneziwoh Mbondgulo Wondieh

Twitter | Instagram: @ZoFem

Thuwaraha's picture

Inspiring !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Hai zoneziwoh !
Its really an inspiring and encouraging story.

Also well articulated
Love this story

Thuwaraha

zoneziwoh's picture

Dear Sister, many thanks for

Dear Sister, many thanks for the encouraging word. It is nice reading from you.

Stay Blessed

Zoneziwoh

Blog: http://zofem.blogspot.com/

Facebook:Zoneziwoh Mbondgulo Wondieh

Twitter | Instagram: @ZoFem

Juliette Maughan's picture

Love it

My sister,

Where have you been? I purposefully came onto your profile to see whether you had posted your first article. I always enjoy reading you work. We have also chose a similar theme of entrepreneurship.

It is amazing to hear how lives are so similar yet different in a sense. Whereas there is little support for the first steps to start your own thing in my country, having a hair salon is seen as something that women do so there is more support for that.

It is in other areas that the lack of the support comes, particularly when young women want to add something a bit different.

I look forward to reading your future posts.

Much love and blessings Z.

Juliette

Dear Sister, its always lovely reading from you. I have been so charged that I rarely visit the netw as previously. However, I am getting back to my virtual space. How are you? hope all is fine.

I agree, our world is a smalll place. irrespective of the geographical boarders, there is always something in common and in this cse, it is the similar orientation among hairdressers in both cameroon and Jamaica.

Stay Blessed

Zoneziwoh

Blog: http://zofem.blogspot.com/

Facebook:Zoneziwoh Mbondgulo Wondieh

Twitter | Instagram: @ZoFem

nasreenamina's picture

It's amazing what we can

It's amazing what we can achieve from our everyday tasks. Social changes are brewing in the day to day, from work, home, even in those moments we share tea with a friend, we can be agents of change. Thank you for this story.

One's life has value so long as one attributes value to the life of others, by means of love, friendship, indignation and compassion

Follow me @DivinaFeminista

zoneziwoh's picture

Definitely! Thanks for

Definitely!
Thanks for sharing and connecting.

Stay Blessed

Zoneziwoh

Blog: http://zofem.blogspot.com/

Facebook:Zoneziwoh Mbondgulo Wondieh

Twitter | Instagram: @ZoFem

Rachael Maddock-Hughes's picture

Inspring

Great profile! Thank you for sharing this with us. Her story is so inspiring--the way she fought against all odds to continue her dream of getting an education. I was surprised by the reaction of her son though--who would have thought that a son brought up by such a forward thinking woman would be so traditional in his views. I also really like how you integrated quotes from the women who worked with her into the profile.

Great job!

Rachael

"In every human heart there are a few passions that last a lifetime. They're with us from the moment we're born, and nothing can dilute their intensity." Rob Brezny

zoneziwoh's picture

Re:Inspiring

Thank you Rachael. Ms Ezoy is truely a fighter and indeed a winner.
On the side of her son's remark, I would go with the proverb that says: "a prophet is never known in his/her home town".
Well, I hope this young boy grow up and be proud of his mom's decision. he is still a teneage young man (under 20) and is surely under the influence of his dad.

Stay Blessed

Zoneziwoh

Blog: http://zofem.blogspot.com/

Facebook:Zoneziwoh Mbondgulo Wondieh

Twitter | Instagram: @ZoFem

Ruun Abdi's picture

One in a million!

What a great and inspiring story! I was overwhelmed how at an old age she went back to school to further her knowledge with no hesitation, very few could have thought the same. She is indeed a brave woman whose legacy should be kept alive!

Cheers!!

zoneziwoh's picture

many thanks

Dear Sister Ruun, many thanks for the encouraging comment. my apology for the late response. Jus that I have been offline for couple of weeks. I am sure once Ms Ezoy reads through all the comments/feedbacks her story has raised, she will be more than inspire. I am thinking of printing it out and giving it to her so that she can see how great and appreciative her sisters from far and wide feels towards her story.

Thanks

Stay Blessed

Zoneziwoh

Blog: http://zofem.blogspot.com/

Facebook:Zoneziwoh Mbondgulo Wondieh

Twitter | Instagram: @ZoFem

Stella Paul's picture

Glad to be back!

Dear Zioh

I am back and read your story and my first thought was 'h god, I missed all this!" You made it special! Great story, great read and loads to feel good and inspired about. Thanks!

Stella Paul
Twitter: @stellasglobe

zoneziwoh's picture

hola sister

hi dear Stella, Happy Newyear. hope you are doing great. I am fine. just that have been very unsteady and to make matter worse - just got into one of my biggest life's time shock where theives break into my home and part out everything in my absence. since then, i have just been so down and cold. still recovery from my shock. so what up?
agina, thanks for stopping by and leaving your comment to my VOF Module 1. wishing you all the best

Stay Blessed

Zoneziwoh

Blog: http://zofem.blogspot.com/

Facebook:Zoneziwoh Mbondgulo Wondieh

Twitter | Instagram: @ZoFem

Thais Moraes's picture

Amazing

You should be so proud! This is an amazing article: passionate, deep and at the same time very solutions-oriented -- Josephine definitely leads by the example.

Congratulations for choosing such a strong story to share! It is inspiring to women all around the world.

Keep it up!

Warmly,

Thais

Thaís Moraes

zoneziwoh's picture

Many thanks Dear Sister

Many thanks dear sister. She is indeed a great inspiration. I feel so lucky to know her and get the chance to share her story this far and wide.

I am just from reading through your website; G20 and the React and Change page - Awesome I must say.
Thanks for taking time to share your view regarding my VOF Module 1 essay. I hope to hear from you again

Stay Blessed

Zoneziwoh

Blog: http://zofem.blogspot.com/

Facebook:Zoneziwoh Mbondgulo Wondieh

Twitter | Instagram: @ZoFem

mrbeckbeck's picture

Great story

Hi Zi'woh-
This is such a great story. Ms. Ezoy deserves to be recognized for her leadership... an everyday hero so to speak. It's impressive that she's taken risks and invested in her own education, and is now returning the generosity to other women in her community. Your writing is very strong here, leading us all the way through the profile at a nice pace. I really enjoyed getting to know her and seeing where she has come from. I'm glad that she is living her dreams.

Great work! Keep it up!
Wishing you health and prosperity for 2012,
Scott

Scott Beck
World Pulse Online Community Volunteer

zoneziwoh's picture

Re:Great Story

Thank you Scott. Definitely Ms Ezoy story is an ideal one. She is an amazing woman, a mentor and an inspiration to many young women [including her peers. Her enthusiasm and commitment to advancing her educational career has greatly encouraged many women in her community. A couple of whom, I know personally.
I think, Mz Ezoy story shall live to inspire many grassroots women.

Stay Blessed

Zoneziwoh

Blog: http://zofem.blogspot.com/

Facebook:Zoneziwoh Mbondgulo Wondieh

Twitter | Instagram: @ZoFem

EllenWingard's picture

Ms. Ezoy, your story, your voice

My dear Zoneziwoh,

Hello, my name is Ellen and I am one of the vision mentors who is so fortunate to be part of all of your leadership journey as VOFs. Your story touched me greatly. First, your writing is an invitation to the reader. You brought me right in to a story that has multiple dimensions that are deeply personal and collectively significant. I appreciate how you can condense a lot of information in a format that is clear, concise yet descriptive - you paint a full story very quickly. Then there is Ms. Ezoy herself and her journey--there is something so universal about her own conviction and determination and understanding the healing that occurs in a salon where the community gathers. This is significant as other commenters have shared too that the professional of hair styling itself can have issues of status etc. Yet you elevate the status of all by the dignity that you endow to Ms. Ezoy and to the reality of her powerful work in turning a salon into a center of risk reduction and education.

Thank you for bringing sometimes invisible heroines to visible roles of impact, thank you for bringing your voice as a writer. I am so excited to read more of your work as we continue our journey. Blessings, warm regards and happy 2012! Ellen

zoneziwoh's picture

Re:Ms Ezoy

Many thanks Ellen for the encouraging words. Ms Ezoy story touched me deeply the first time I came across her. Her vision for her community, and her family is worth emulating. I still find her social activism and entrepreneurial skills so interesting . being able to mainstream all these concept for a common good is however a intelligent move - from a woman whose role had once being defined as 'sit-home wife'.

Thanks

Stay Blessed

Zoneziwoh

Blog: http://zofem.blogspot.com/

Facebook:Zoneziwoh Mbondgulo Wondieh

Twitter | Instagram: @ZoFem

EllenWingard's picture

Vision...

Thank you dear Zoneziwoh your vision touches me deeply!!

zoneziwoh's picture

you are welcome!

Your are welcome Ellen. Thanks for reading.

Stay Blessed

Zoneziwoh

Blog: http://zofem.blogspot.com/

Facebook:Zoneziwoh Mbondgulo Wondieh

Twitter | Instagram: @ZoFem

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