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Participant of the educational course “Beauty for everybody” Olena: “These six months have radically changed my life”

20 May 2019

Graduation of the second round of a course “Beauty for better life”, organized by L'Oréal and United Nations Population Fund, has just taken place in Kyiv. Olena is a participant who immediately after graduation received an invitation to become an intern with further employment in one of the most progressive hairdresser salons. Her uneasy path to the educational course proves that courage is vital when it comes to changing one’s life for better.

 

She met her future boyfriend online. It began with friendship, which has gradually transformed into a romantic relationship. “We are both orphans. Both of us didn’t have people nearby to tell us about the consequences. Thus, I was 16 and pregnant”, Olena tells. Young people immediately married. Only after giving birth to the baby, she found out that her partner was a drug addict. “Before he was always calm and balanced. Then, once he came home, took a frying pan and started running around the flat as if it was a butterfly net. I got numb. Apparently, I had no clue whom I married,” Olena tells. The terrified girl had nowhere to go with a baby and was unsure if anybody would welcome her.

 

Having no place to go, she decided to accept and adapt to the reality that she had. Yet, what she had become worse and worse. Her husband started forcing intimacy. If she refused, then he would beat, strangle and threaten her. Throughout 8 years of marriage, Olena has gone through all kinds of violence, lack of financial resources and total control over every step she took. In the meanwhile, kids were born one after another and expenses increased. However, it didn’t motivate her husband to find a job. In order to feed her family, Olena took any job possible for a woman with 5 children. She cleaned, distributed newspapers and flyers in the street.

One of the families that she knew suggested that Olena leaves her husband and moves with children to so-called “parental house”. But she was scared to do it. Her husband repeatedly threatened Olena, intimidated her, saying that if she ever dares to do something like this, then she will be found dead. She believed him and worried that if so, then there will be nobody to take care of her kids.

 

Yet a critical moment, when it became impossible to endure her situation anymore, arrived. One morning Olena woke up and understood that there was nothing at home: no money and no food. She was too tired to go somewhere and seek help. Husband demanded to get breakfast. She replied, saying, perhaps, for the first time everything that she’d kept inside for a while: “There is nothing. We’ve come to the point when we have nothing. Look at the children, into their hungry eyes. What was the point to give them birth? I am tired to seek for support and help elsewhere. You’re their father, you’re supposed to take care and protect us, not us protecting ourselves from you.” That was a turning point, after which Olena called her friends, that had offered help earlier, and told them that she was ready to go. She had no more power to cope. She had no fear either. It could not go any worse than it already was.

 

Olena has lived in the parental house for the last 2.5 years. At first, she worked as an assistant teacher in the kindergarten. Then she started thinking which education and profession would allow her to work while taking care of the children. Once, by the incident, she saw an announcement online that UNFPA and L'Oréal launch a free hairdressing course for women in difficult life circumstances. “At first I didn’t think that I will qualify to participate. So, when it happened, I felt on top of the world,” Olena tells.

 

Course Mentors instantly noticed Olena’s talent for hairdressing and repeatedly told her how gifted she was. She didn’t believe it much though. Olena thought that it is all flattery and exaggeration. Yet, very soon she got proof that they meant what they said and her talent had a value. Straight after graduation, she got an offer to do an internship with further employment in one of the most progressive hairdresser salons.

The course helped Olena to not only master the hairdresser’s art but also to deal with her own worries. “I was taught to let my fears go, to work with insults of the past. Before the course, I was very reticent, scared of big groups of people, tried to keep away and stay alone. If you took two of my pictures – how I looked like before taking it and now, then you would be surprised how much I’ve changed. These two girls seem to be different people!” Olena exclaims.

For every woman who has suffered from domestic violence, support is pivotal. As soon as a woman makes a decision that she does not want to endure it anymore, she needs a plan of a change.

This plan of a change is offered by a joint project of L'Oréal and UNFPA. It is a free hairdressing course called “Beauty for everybody”. Thanks to this project 28 Ukrainian women got free training for a new career path, revived faith in their strengths and capacity for financial independence. Moreover, they received psychological support and a safe environment, which showed that they were talented, skilled and worthy to be happy.

 

Story of Olena, a participant of the  “Beauty for better life”, is a vivid proof that changes are possible in any circumstances. Living in the atmosphere of fear and aggression, she found strength to leave this violent environment and to start everything from a blank page. Like dozens of other Ukrainian women, Olena found support in the project “Beauty for all”. It provided her with a career training, a plan of professional development and, most importantly, confidence that she is capable of building her life in a new way.