Natsinet Tukabo is a 25-year-old Eritrean Kunama woman from Gashbarka/Shamboko. The Eritrean government suspected that her father had connections with anti-government forces. He was put in prison. Natsinet was forced to drop out of school in the 7th grade, at the age of 17. To support her family, she started working as a traditional gold miner near Shambuko. She explains,

“I always cursed my fate that I would not continue school and gave-up the life I dreamed starting from childhood, just to support my family.”

Natsinet lived six years filled with despair and anger because of her circumstances. The Eritrean government requested that her family contribute one person for the military. She was the only eligible person. Her only option was to flee from her country. In September 2014, with her husband (Dawit) whom she had met in the mining work and her five-month-old baby (Solyana) on her back, she crossed the border into Ethiopia. They had traveled on foot to the Badme border. From there the family was taken to Endabaguna Reception Center by Administration for Refugees and Returnees Affaire (ARRA) in Ethiopia. Later they joined her uncle who was already living in Shimelba Refugee Camp.

She was relieved to escape forced military and possible imprisonment in Eritrea. But life was still difficult. Natsinet and her family depended solely on the monthly ration provided by the WFP. As she described her life, “being from a farmer family, I did not have handy skills or the resources to start a petty trade and secure a regular income.” Natsinet was not content to sit idle. She started helping some new acquaintances by hand sewing plastic coffee mats which would be sold. She learned the skill fast. However, the profit was not enough, and the demand fluctuated too much because of the large number of producers compared to the limited demand. She was not able to meet all the needs of her daughter and to provide other necessities of the family such as food, clothing and household materials.

During her first year living in Shimelba, she was not integrated in any livelihood activities. She also did not get any opportunity to take vocational skill training. As the days passed, Natsinet became depressed because she began to lose hope of enhancing her personal development and to meet financial shortages to fulfill the family’s needs.

November 2015, IHS launched a three-month hairdressing vocational skill training project. Natsinet along with 22 other vulnerable women were selected by the Refugee Central Committee (RCC) to be part of the hairdressing project. Natsinet was one of the most attentive and committed students in the training. After she graduated in January 2016, she joined a hairdressing Self Help Group with four other women who had taken training with her. They started a hair salon business in Shimelba Refugee Camp with startup kits and a business location provided by IHS and ARRA respectively. Natsinet no longer had financial shortages. She was able to provide her family with basic, daily necessities. Natsinet does not feel desperate anymore now that she is a certified hairdressing professional.

Currently Natsinet lives in Shimelba Refugee Camp with her husband, daughter and uncle. Her average income from her hair salon business is 1000 birr per month.  She saves up to 250 birr for bigger plans in the future. In additional to the hairdressing business, she still sews the coffee mats. When asked about her pleasure and changes in her livelihood she says, “I get enough money to provide for my family and most of all to take a good care of my baby girl. I want her to grow up with a brighter future than I had at her age.”

Natsinet sees her future being bright and clear. She emphasized by saying “I hope to transfer the knowledge and skill I acquired to my children and community. And I hope by upgrading my skill I will open my own beauty salon where I live in the future.” Thanks to IHS’s hairdressing project, her dream might become true.

The IHS hairdressing project is part of the Livelihood Program in Shimelba Refugee Camp. The aim is to strengthen the lives and livelihood of Eritrean refugees living in the camp. As with other vocational skill trainings IHS provides, the hairdressing project is followed by consecutive entrepreneurship and proposal writing trainings. Through this project, IHS helps young people, women, and other vulnerable groups and their families to have an opportunity to create a normal life, to acquire a life skill that increases their personal development, and to learn ways to solve their problems and improve their livelihood. This project is part of the effort to reduce the rate of secondary movement that is prevalent among Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia.