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       Volume 10 |Issue 16 | April 22, 2011 |


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The Hands Behind Your Beauty

Afrida Mahbub

Many of the beauticians working at parlours financially support their families., Photo: Courtesy

From the beginning of time, women have been seen to obsessively pursue beauty and spend extensive amounts of time trying to achieve it. From using personal skills to hiring professionals to permanently modify their body features, women have tried all means and gone extra lengths to make themselves look attractive. And with the quest for satisfying the beauty seeking needs of women in Bangladesh, some female entrepreneurs started off with the business of beauty parlours some fifteen years back, pampering women and catering to their specialised needs.

Since the inception of this business, a particular faction of women have been seen to work in this sector, markedly females coming from the Mandi and Garo ethnic communities. We get to see a dominance of Mandi and Garo women in the beauty parlours today. These girls have played a huge role in the lives of numerous women, dressing them up for momentous events like weddings, indulging them and taking care of their every minute's beauty needs. It is time to shed a little light on the lives of these girls, working in the beauty parlours, throughout the country.

These young women mostly come from the regions of Mymensingh, Modhupur and Tangail and usually belong to Garo and Mandi ethnicity. They usually mingle in closed communities as they live together in hostels, except for the married ones who live outside with their families. Their food and lodging is mostly provided for by their organisation of work. Most of them availed school education, usually till grade ten.

The advent of the beauty industry required a high inflow of workers, which was unavailable from the local Bangladeshis. These Mandi and Garo girls have an innate aptitude for beauty related tasks and can easily grasp them. Through proper training, they can be turned into professionals in no time. Hence, they were the obvious choice when it came to choosing the initial labourers to drive this industry.

Moreover, there were several social taboos for which the Bangladeshis looked down upon this job. The concept of massaging someone's body was not much of an acceptable notion back then, and the idea of beauty parlours as a whole was still to gain compliance. But the ethnic societies had societal values that were quite different from the rest and the idea of beauty consciousness ran through families as heritage. Hence, lack of any sort of societal barriers made these women even more of a common face in this business. As recruitment is usually done by spreading the news by word of mouth, the network spread through these ethnic communities, increasing their numbers exponentially.

Back then ethnic families of the Mandi and Garo tribes were quite impoverished and were in utmost need of a financial boost. With the development of this sector, the girls working in these parlours can now run their families by providing food, sending their children to good schools and at times financing their own education. When talking to one such worker, she said, “I used to be a missionary school teacher in Bhaluka, but I left the job and came to Dhaka in search of a better life. And yes, my struggle has been successfully rewarded for, as now I can send my child to a good school and lead a happy family life.”

These women do a commendable job in working long hours constantly and perfecting the art of seeking customer satisfaction. But they all do it with a big smile and a happy heart and we do not expect to see this end anytime soon.

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