Shefali Rani is a hairdresser with a difference. She cuts men's hair. That may not be anything out of the ordinary for an urbanite where there are a few women hairstylists for men here and there, but for the Shouljalia union in Kanthalia upazila, Jhalkathi, this is certainly a break from the norm. It's been 10 years that's she been at this work. Every morning she brings scissors, combs and razors to a veranda of a house in the local Dogna market. The owner of the house lives abroad and Shefali uses the tiny space for her work.
Shefali had never thought she would earn a living for her family in this way, but that emerged as the best option. She had to take care of five children and run the family. Two of her daughters are married and the rest are studying.
She earns around Tk 100 to Tk 150 a day. On the weekly market days, she earns more, but some days go dry. On these days, she supplies water to the shops in the market for a little income.
Shefali was 12 years old and in grade five when her parents married her off. After his husband left her and went missing in 2007, she turned to cutting hair.
Initially the local people frowned upon a woman cutting men's hair, but they gradually became used to seeing her at her job. Shefali too wasn't very comfortable with it initially. Fortunately, later everyone were quite easy about it all, even those who were opposed at first.
Shefali came to the village 20 years ago, said Mosharref Hossain Khan, a village doctor at Dogna Bazar. They were very poor, he said.
Shefali has mastered the latest hairstyles for men too. She charges less than others which is another client puller.
The district women affairs department has recognised Shefali for her work and has given her the 'Joyita' title. On 2 July, prime minister Sheikh Hasina gave her four decimals land and Tk 300,000 to build a house.
"People at first laughed when I cut men's hair, shaved their beards," Shefali said. "I was afraid how the men would take it , but they praise me now. I'm grateful to the prime minister for her support," she said.