In Uganda, society is still predominantly patriarchal. Traditionally masculine roles are an important part of the pecking order and many men are not considered to be real breadwinners if they are not working traditionally masculine jobs. This means farming, driving taxis, and physical labor. This has contributed to an unemployment rate of over 60 percent among Ugandan youth, and has left 38 percent of the population earning less than $1.25 per day as men turn down jobs that are not considered masculine.
However, thanks to Uganda’s growing beauty sector, this is changing. Obed Akampulira, a former mechanic now finds himself working at Lugogo, a branch of the popular Ugandan salon chain, Sparkles. The 29-year-old Akampulira now finds himself sorting through nail polish bottles and performing manicures. Businesses like Sparkles are making efforts in Uganda to teach men that their is no shame in taking care of their physical appearance and that a career in the beauty industry is no less masculine than physical labor.
Sparkles has achieved this by employing more and more men. At least 40 percent of the current staff are men says owner and founder of Sparkle Donnah Masolo. According to Masolo, men hoping to provide for their wives and children not just in Uganda, but also in Kenya, South Africa, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo are all seeking jobs in beauty. She even suggests that in Rwanda men are more engaged with the beauty industry than women are.
This change can be seen outside of salons as well. Mobile manicurists can be seen in the streets of Kampala, Uganda’s capital. They’ll perform manicures in the street for patrons and will even travel directly to their customers’ homes.
Entrepreneurial spirits like these and the people at large businesses like Sparkle are not just helping to break down gender walls and make people pretty. They’re helping to build the foundation of a strong economy and develop nations throughout their region.