"Strong and happy." This is how Alaa Nofal describes her feelings as she welcomes women clients in her newly opened beauty salon located in Deir Al-Balah Refugee Camp in central Gaza.
After years of working from her home, Alaa, 33, finally managed to open her own salon after she joined Anera’s Women Can program this year.
Women Can provided her with the needed equipment and tools to open her small business and to start an independent source of income.
"Opening the salon was not the only gain from participating in Women Can," Alaa says. The program gave the participating women intensive training in project management and financial collection skills to help running their own businesses.
Over the years, the mother of four has relied on her hairdressing skills to make a living for her family. The difficult economic situation in Gaza and her husband's inability to find a job added to the pressures she was under.
"Before, the number of clients was very limited," she says. "Women prefer to go to a salon, not to a hairdresser working at home. I was also held back because I couldn't buy all the tools and equipment," she says.
Instead of multitasking, as is typical in beauty salons, Alaa chooses to focus specifically on hairstyling, including hair dying, hair straightening and hair treatments using protein and other methods.
From Alaa’s point of view, this field is still new and requires extensive experience. And she sees strong demand from clients.
In 2018, Alaa suffered from a sudden intestinal disease, after which she was referred for treatment to hospitals in the West Bank in Nablus. Doctors there decided she had to stay there for four months until the completion of the first stage of treatment.
This ordeal did not stop Alaa from her passion. Rather, she saw it as a grant of sorts, and took advantage of her presence in Nablus to take specialized courses in hairdressing, microblading, and eyelash installation, in addition to using laser devices. She also learned about new products for treating hair proteins.
After she returned to Gaza with her new hairdressing skills, Alaa earned a reputation among her clients for her excellent work.
"At this point, it became important to have my own salon. Yet, I didn't have the money to open it," Alaa says.
After Anera’s Women Can intervention helped her launch and furnish the salon, Alaa’s project moved to a ‘very satisfactory’ level for her.
"The opening day of the salon was the most beautiful day of my life. It was a dream that came true before my eyes," Alaa says.
“My work became more stable, the number of clients increased remarkably."
Alaa says she hires female workers to help her from time to time, especially during busy times like holidays and wedding seasons. Alaa says she is glad that her project has also opened an opportunity for other women who act as breadwinners for their families in Gaza.
Alaa hopes to develop her project into a bigger beauty center, specializing in skin and hair care, with a section dedicated to selling hair products that are often unavailable in the local market in Gaza.
"The feeling of success is very great. Today I fully cover my children’ needs and my medical expenses," Alaa says. "I advise every woman to stick to her dream and strive to achieve it."