Gentle laughter fills the room. The warm South Asian breeze passes through the windows of a small building structure holding 15 women who speak little to no English.
Smiles. Whispering. Joy.
These were just three of the small, yet incredibly powerful things we noticed as the Elevate team started to begin our second women's beautician training with a new group of women.
So much hope and happiness, was all I could think as I scanned the new faces that occupied the small space that would be their classroom over the next four days.
Life was "simple" here. When looking at the exterior of their life through a Westerners lens, it was easy for me to quickly admire the simplicities of their everyday routine.
It felt slower pace. Intentional. Good.
But once we started to peel back the complex layers that shaped these women's lives, I started to fully understand the challenges they face.
In fact, after spending time with a translator, we had come to find that many women in the room were illiterate, making it difficult, if not impossible, for them to take notes.
Most of the women were mothers who couldn't afford to send their kids to school, let alone pay for themselves to continue their own education. And many were married at a young age, with at least half being arranged marriages.
Each had their own unique story about why they needed to attend our beautician training.
Bina, Puja, and Rita just happen to be three of the women we met.
How far did you have to travel to get to the beautician training?
Bina: I live near by. It’s a about a three hour walk, but if my husband brings me by auto it’s only half an hour.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Bina: I am 32 years old. My house situation was hard growing up. My mother and father were heavy drunkards, so I said, "why don't I leave?" I fell in love at 14 and got married to my husband. We now have three kids.
What is the best part about this women's beautician training?
Bina: The best part is that I get to learn so many things. I enjoy learning, but didn't have many opportunities after I was married. I enjoy being with all of the women and learning from them.
Any other thoughts?
Bina: I desire a parlor job, and I enjoy the idea of being a beautician. I would consider this a hobby.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I am 32 and was married when I was 28. I have two boys, a five year old and an 20 month old.
How did you meet your husband?
My uncle matched us. He went up to my husband who he worked with in a factory and said, "If you like her, fall in love and marry." (Laughs) My husband is in Algeria for work right now, and I've stayed to be with my children.
What do you enjoy the most about beautician training?
Meeting everybody. I've really enjoyed meeting Anuja (The beautician teacher and business mentor) and enjoying fellowship with all of the women.
Do you have any hobbies?
I like doing make up for ladies in my village. But I would consider this my hobby.
Tell us a little about yourself?
I am 23 years old and have been married for four months. I would like a degree. I have made it past high school, but have not been able to go on.
How far did you travel to come to this beautician training?
I live five hours away on bus. I wanted to come to the beautician training because I want a higher degree and want to be able to make enough money so that I can go back to school.
What do you enjoy the most about the beautician training?
This is the first time I have ever been to something like this in my life. I'm happy to be a participant. I've never been to anything like this.