In a country where running a barbershop is seen as a male-only profession, one woman from Nigeria’s commercial city, Lagos, is changing the narrative. Adebanjo Kofoworola Bintu chose the road less travelled by women in Nigeria to earn a living.
“I started barbing when I was in form two when my mom had our last born, which was in 1982,” she explained.
Her mother was a barber and barbershop owner who taught Bintu how to cut hair. Initially, she resisted when her mom wanted to train her to become a skilled barber.
“When my mom wants to put me through, I will tell her: ‘I want to go to school; I don’t want to be a barber like you. I want to work in an office.’ [But] she will tell me I should just know this [learn barbing],” she said.
Bintu became interested in the haircutting business when her aunt, who her mom employed in her barber shop, frequently left the shop in her care.
“She would bribe me with one or two kobos [local currency coins) not to tell my mummy if she works or not. From there, I asked myself, ‘what if I started to learn the craft and earn money myself instead of collecting bribes from my aunt,” the female barber said.
Once she began to pay attention to this skill, within a short time, she mastered it.
In a video interview with Sahara Reporters, Bintu said by the time she finished her secondary education in 1986, she was employed as the first female barber at Choices Salon in Yaba, Lagos State.
The Lagosian said all her four siblings – three women and one male – are skilled barbers.
About how she retains her customers, she said, “I prioritize my new customers because I want to give them the reasons to return tomorrow and to enjoy the service they paid for.”
The challenge is that some male customers, with their prebuilt stereotype, sometimes refuse her service for being a female barber. But some would later patronize her after persuasion.
“When they refuse, I see it as a challenge to convince them and let me barb them. In the end, they are happy with my service, and I consider convincing them my biggest challenge,” Bintu said.