Styling Your Way to Stability

How a Yemeni cosmetologist built her business despite all challenges

Posted June 16, 2021

Samah posing in her beauty salon. | Photo Credit: UNDP Yemen/2021

“A cosmetologist is an artist” says Samah, 32. “My profession began as a hobby when I started styling my family and neighbors’ hair around the age of 13.”

Samah has been working professionally since her early twenties. She began in her cousin’s salon before moving to a more well-known salon to earn a better salary.

Samah married a public servant three years ago. But the conflict has meant irregular payment of government salaries, leaving Samah as the main breadwinner for her small family of three.

“I was receiving good money, but I found myself as the only provider for the family. I had to pay the rent and bills. The decreasing value of the Yemeni Riyal left me unable to fulfill all our needs.”

Hope for a Better Life

With the support of her family, Samah bought the equipment she needed to establish a beauty salon in a room of her rented home. Carrying her tools with her, she also goes to the homes of brides and their bridesmaids to prepare them for the wedding ceremony.

“The bride should have a special hair style and makeup. Among all the women attending the wedding ceremony, she must be the star of the night! Some women ask for a specific hair style they found online. Based on my experience, I recommend if it would suit them or not,” she says. “I believe in dealing with customers with respect and kindness to make them loyal to your beauty salon.”

Samah styling the hair of a young girl. | Photo Credit: UNDP Yemen/2021

Samah provides a wide range of services for her customers including styling, dyeing, cutting, makeup and skin treatments. “I don’t only do hair dressing, but I am also excellent at applying makeup. Employees at beauty salons normally learn the two skills and offer both hair dressing and makeup to the customers and I really enjoy both,” explains Samah.

Beauty salons were not the only place that Samah crafted her skills, she also gained a lot from videos on YouTube and specialized beauty websites.

But despite her growing reputation, Samah needed a few more tools to help her grow her business and attract more customers. Given the persistent power outages, Samah needed a power generator to keep her equipment operating. She also wanted an illuminated sign to attract new customers and increase her income. But the cost of this equipment was just too much for Samah to afford.

Photo Credit: UNDP Yemen/2021

“One night, I received a call from one of my friends. She told me to prepare my ID card and bring any certificate of experience so I could register for a new programme,” describes Samah.

Shortly after, Samah was contacted by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)’s local partner, For All Foundation (FAF). They told her that she had been accepted as a project participant in the Yemen Livelihoods and Human Security (YLHS) project, funded by the Government of Japan.

Tears and Cheers

To begin with, Samah participated in an emergency employment programme through which small-scale infrastructure was repaired in her home city. “There were only two days remaining of the cash-for-work activities when my father passed away. I was devested; my father had been a continuous source of inspiration and support. He was the one who encouraged me to establish my own business and depend on myself.”

Despite her broken heart, Samah stayed strong and after days of mourning, she attended a course in business administration. “Things were very difficult after my loss, but I decided to attend the training and succeed because this was what my father wanted,” says Samah. “The training was very useful. I learned how to develop a business plan and execute it, keeping my business growing consistently.”

One of 170 people from the areas of Aden and Lahj, Samah was selected by a committee to receive a cash grant that would enable her to grow her business.

Now that she could afford to purchase a power generator and illuminated board, she no longer had to worry about power outages and could attract more customers. She is planning to move to another rented house with more space to do her work.

“I have many customers now. Women come to my salon because of my skills and because I can make them look like princesses at their wedding ceremonies or important events like birthdays or anniversaries,” Samah explains. “I named my salon in my father’s name to pay tribute to him.”

Funded by the Government of Japan and implemented by UNDP and FAF, this project contributes to the overall stability of Yemeni communities, by financially empowering citizens to build resilience and recover from conflict. By helping Yemenis build sustainable livelihoods and provide access to basic services, UNDP and FAF aim to improve their perception of community stability, encouraging displaced people to return, speeding up recovery from conflict and preventing future conflicts from erupting.


With funding from the Government of Japan, the fourth phase of the Yemen Livelihoods and Human Security project was able to target Aden’s and Lahj’s most vulnerable individuals and communities. The key areas of focus include: (a) identification of needs and opportunities for affected communities to return to normal; (b) restoration of disrupted livelihoods for the crisis-affected population; and (c) strengthening of community-based protection mechanisms with a focus on women and youth.