L’Oréal Malaysia empowers women by equipping them with vocational hairdressing skills

Their Beauty for a Better Life programme is offering 30 participants at an intensive three-month course.

Bambang Soteto addressing a BFBL class. The relaunched programme ends in December. (All photos: L'Oréal Malaysia)

Like the adage of teaching someone to fish, training a woman to trim and layer hair can help her take charge of her future. That is the opportunity L'Oréal Malaysia is offering 30 participants at an intensive three-month hairdressing course under its Beauty for a Better Life (BFBL) programme, together with non-profit organisation WOMEN:girls.

Relaunched last month after a two-year break because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the L'Oréal Foundation programme was initiated in 2016 to provide women in need with education and new skill sets so they can earn a sustainable income for a better livelihood.

Since its start, BFBL has equipped more than 120 participants with vocational skills. Besides learning about hairdressing and beauty, they also benefit from motivational training and masterclasses with L’Oréal Professionel as well as job-matching after they graduate.

Students in the current intake go to the brand’s academy in Damansara Uptown, Petaling Jaya, for classes every weekday, and are taught by Bambang Soteto’s Faculty of Artistry Academy. As the programme prioritises women from disadvantaged backgrounds, the majority of this year’s participants come from B40 families. Many lack access to higher education and some are unemployed.


Participants learning the finer points of hairdressing

L’Oréal Malaysia managing director Tomas Hruska says the company believes it can "make meaningful changes for our communities. We are committed to empowering women in need because everyone deserves to take charge of their future".

WOMEN:girls executive director Izza Izelan says it supports those who want to chart the best life and future for themselves. The selection process for BFBL 2022 involved interviews with homemakers, mothers and single mothers — women who lack, or have limited access to, formal education.

"But they all have the undying courage within them to go after their dreams in the beauty and hairdressing world. They just need someone to believe in them enough to give them a life-changing opportunity, and that is where WOMEN:girls and L’Oreal come in. BFBL and our visions align," Izza adds.


Snipping their way to a better future

Have scissors, will travel. That is the strand of thought shared by three participants of L’Oreal’s Beauty for a Better Life (BFBL) programme.

Single mother Radin Nurul Syuhada found out about the course via Facebook and did not hesitate to sign up. It meant living alone in a hostel room, a long commute to the L’Oreal Academy on weekdays and waiting tables to supplement her allowance during BFBL’s three-month duration.


Syuhada already sees opportunity and possibility

Tak apa if I stay far away. I minat learn how to cut hair. I’ve done a beautician course. My target is to have a salon. After this programme, I want to continue. Maybe take a full hairdressing course.”

A little training is not adequate, she thinks. “You can’t do hair like chin chai. You have to do it perfectly so customers will be satisfied.” As for why hair, she says, “It’s our crowning glory, even if covered with a tudung.

Future gain means present pain for Syuhada, 34, who has to leave her seven-year-old son with her mother in Manjung, southwestern Perak. Two other children are with her ex-husband. This is her first visit to the Klang Valley and already, she sees opportunity and possibility.

“I’ve always lived in Manjung and married early, over 10 years ago. I’m keen on business. I want to study that and elevate myself.”

Vathamalar Pachchimuthu uses a different word to echo the same goal. “I have zero knowledge of hair. I came for this because I want to be more versatile and upgrade myself. In future, I want to have a studio.”

Malar, 38, worked as a nurse at a private medical centre in Seremban for five years before quitting to care for her three children. She found staying home difficult and decided to learn bridal make-up as she could take the kids along to clients’ homes.


Kavita and Malar aim to improve themselves

“Before Covid, I had a studio but closed it during the pandemic. Now I go everywhere as a freelance beautician. As soon as my income is comfortable again, I will open in Shah Alam,” says Selangor-based Malar, who envisions customers coming in to have their hair done too.

Kavita Ganesan trims her own locks, as well as that of her niece and nephews. She thought it would be simple but found that while one side turned out okay, the other often did not.

She has been helping out at her sister’s beauty and hair salon in Kuala Lumpur. Before this, she worked as a debt collector for eight years, and then in a management office. After quitting the latter, she took a five-day make-up course that taught skincare too, under a B40 development scheme.

Hair care, which she is learning at L’Oreal, is new altogether. “I hope to get a lot of knowledge in these three months. If you have knowledge, you can help people,” says Kavita, 34, referring to those in B40 communities.


For more information about the BFBL programme, see here.

This article first appeared on Oct 24, 2022 in The Edge Malaysia.

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