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Lycie, the lady men trust with their heads

Much as women have in recent years taken a bolder step and disputed the old stereotypical norms of limiting themselves to a few professions in favor of the male gender, Lycie Umuhire, alias Umukobwa Wogosha or Lycie the Barber stands out for her venturing into the space of being a Barber, a profession that was never practiced by females in Rwanda.

 

By Andrew I Kazibwe

It is mid-morning, on a Wednesday in the heart of Kigali business center, where people right from the streets to the offices are at their hustle as usual. I make my way to Kigali Clipper Zone, a Saloon which is located at Labonne Adresse building, for our scheduled appointment with Lycie the Baber, a young lady I had shortly before the meeting, discovered via her Instagram page.

Making my way into the saloon’s interior, I had to be so keen to recognize Umuhire’s workstation, because of the close similarity to the rest of the Barbers who are entirely men. She is dressed up in simple buggy jeans, long sleeved casual shirts, which she compliments with a cap.

Ushering relatively huge numbers of clients, this is a busy saloon with over 30 staff of which 25 are male Barbers, while the rest are females that mainly perform other roles like head washing and massaging, alongside mopping and sweeping. Umuhire stands out as the only female Barber. At the time of my arrival, she is busy attending to a male client. This further clears my doubt, since seeing is believing.

Born 23 years ago, she is the eldest and only girl in a family of three. With no history of the Barber or Hairstyling profession in her family, she admits it’s strange and that besides that drawing is an Art she has long practiced and admired. “The fact that I too haven’t personally met a woman practicing what I do in Rwanda motivates me deeper into doing it,” she states.

“I wanted to explore something I could enjoy doing while earning from it, and this is what I admired,” she states.

Having accomplished her Advanced level Education in 2019, where she majored in Mathematics, Computer, and Economics, at Ecole St. Bernadette in Kamonyi District.

As the world battled the COVID-19 pandemic, amidst the on-and-off lockdowns, Umuhire was embarking on learning and mastering the art of cutting hair, “I did search for jobs, even from friends and family members who had promised to connect me but I was not lucky,” she states. Her initial attempt into the career, which was just a passion wasn’t easy since being a Barber was a profession known to only men, so she practiced it discreetly.

Umuhire recalls how it was through practicing from her two brothers' hair-cuts that she gradually mastered how to do it, “I had sought to be trained how to do Hair-cuts, but the few I had contacted needed a pay for it, yet I had no money,” she states, “with my brothers I could only pay the saloon a half of what they were to pay or the service, then I could personally work on them,” she adds.

She further took on online tutorials on YouTube. Her passion was boosted by one lady, a Barber in Florida, US, who she learned of through social media. She still renders 2021 as the year she was still learning both the skill and the approach to society. She faced rejection too, “It hurts when you work on a client then they don’t pay you, or when they frown at you on the realization of a fault, but I stayed calm at it all since I was still learning,” she states.

The moment she still cherishes to this day was when she offered a haircut to her father, “He didn’t know of the skill, but when my mother told him about it, he accepted,” she states happily, “To me, that was an endorsement for life,” she adds.

“She came with something unique,” remarks Innocent Safari, who is the Saloon’s Manager, “It is her skills and work ethic that led her here, and we are proud of the image reflected so far upon us,” he adds.

“Her passion beat all doubts around, to the extent that she now attracts more clients than I do,” remarks Adams a longtime friend and workmate.

Currently in her second year pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Law at the Kigali Independent University (UIK), Umuhire is glad that those who initially doubted her practice are her most devoted clients today.

“I would love to set up the first ever all-Female Barber saloon which will train and employ professional Barbers,” she remarks, with a smile.