The Chandara Concept Salon, located in Cambodia’s capital of Phnom Penh, is a unique hairdressing salon offering more than just a professional hairstyle. The salon is a training centre for underprivileged Cambodian women, offering free high-quality education and training in hairdressing.
I spoke with the vocational centre director, Charya Sam, to gain some information about the project and how it supports women in need.
What was the inspiration behind the idea of a hair salon with a social cause?
Our project started with the creation of the Happy Chandara primary school back in 2005. Happy Chandara is a project founded by Tina Kieffer of Toutes a l’école and ex-editor in chief of Marie Claire Magazine. Toutes a l’école’s main aim was to provide free education to underprivileged girls in Cambodia, along with free health services to pupils and their families. The organisation went on to open a secondary school in 2012, a vocational training centre in 2013 and a high school in 2015.
After 6 years of running the Happy Chandara vocational training centre within the campus of the Happy Chandara secondary school, it was time to relocate in the capital city Phnom Penh to expand our reach. We wanted to create a physical salon, that was up to international standards, to prepare our students for the workforce and give them the highest possibility of finding jobs.
What are some of the issues faced by young Cambodian women today?
Young Cambodian women are facing challenges such as unemployment, which is high among Cambodia’s youth. Due, in part, to a low level of education. Some Cambodian women are even illiterate. Young women would only reach primary levels of education, compared to young men who are more likely to have had secondary education. One factor contributing to this gender disparity is the lack of secondary schools in rural areas. This means there is a reluctance from many families to send their daughters to urban cities for education. Education is often absent in impoverished families as they cannot afford for their children to go to school. With Cambodia developing extremely fast it is attracting new international companies who would rather hire foreigners, due to the lack of education and experience of some of the local candidates.
How does the hair salon support women in need?
The profits from every service provided in the salon go directly to support the Happy Chandara vocational training centre. This revenue supports trainees in their training, as well as providing health care, scholarship allowance, and uniforms for the trainees.
The opening of the Chandara Concept Salon was aimed at enhancing our trainees’ abilities and skills within this professional environment. This salon allows them to practice their competency in real-life situations. They are even practising their English language as well. The hair and beauty industry is very competitive and so this extra experience advances their confidence and strength as qualified hair stylists-to-be.
What are your aims for the future of Chandara Concept Salon?
The Chandara Concept Salon is aiming to financially support the training centre and expand our connection within the hair industry in Cambodia. Acting as a social enterprise, we want to become self-sustainable and still make an impact. We already have hair salon owners contacting us to recruit staff and we hope the vocational training centre will become one of the references in the hair and beauty trade in Cambodia. This way we can provide further job opportunities for our graduates, and continue to empower more women from marginalised backgrounds.
If you’re visiting Phnom Penh you can find the Chandara Concept Salon via this link.