At Miskaa Salon, in Conakry, Guinea, West Africa, stylist Nene Diakité offers her customers the latest hairstyles and a primer on how to safely plan their families.
In Guinea, where the average household size hovers above 8, and only 7.5 percent of women who are married or living with a partner use contraception, a visit to the hair salon is a vital opportunity to provide women—and men—with lifesaving information and counseling on reproductive health.
Through a Jhpiego-supported initiative, hairdressers in five of the most popular salons in Conakry—Guinea’s capital and largest city—have been empowered with the skills, knowledge and incentive to educate women and men on reproductive health and contraceptive options, provide family planning counseling and, when warranted, make referrals to local health facilities.
At Miskaa Salon, Diakité and other stylists might use a beaded necklace to demonstrate how a woman’s menstrual cycle works, chat up the benefits of a long-acting contraceptive method like implants or offer condoms for sale.
“I sell a boxful of condoms [about 140] a month—men come in and buy them,” said Diakité, who earns a commission on every contraceptive sold.
Salon customers are grateful for the information. In years past, pregnancy prevention might involve a woman returning to her mother’s house for a few years after having a baby—the time away from the husband helping to ensure a well-spaced family.
“The stylist knew a lot about pills and condoms. Everyone knows about that, but they don’t know the details,” remarked Fatoumatah Bah, a salon customer. “I learned things I didn’t know.”
As hairdressers like Diakité make sure there’s a space to talk about sex, contraception and how to have a healthy family, more and more women in Conakry—and eventually other major urban areas in Guinea—will feel empowered to build healthy, thriving families by choice, not chance.