Zimbabwe: Hair Salons Come to Rescue of Female Condom

Program trained hairdressers to educate clients

| October 21, 2004

PSI Zimbabwe blamed the lagging sales of their female condom in conventional retail outlets, such as supermarkets and pharmacies, on ignorance. To solve the problem, according to a company representative, they asked themselves where women spend a lot of time and 'with whom would they feel most comfortable talking about such an intimate topic.' The answer was simple--and similar to what an American sex toys company called Passion Parties told a reporter from the New York Times when asked about female customers in the American South: private homes and hair salons. What's more, PSI learned that 59% of the women who walk into Zimbabwe hair salons believe they are at risk of contracting HIV. So, PSI coupled a home-sales initiative with a program to start training stylists, who have natural interpersonal skills that can be employed to talk about safe sex. The hairdressers were also taught how to do demonstrations.

A recent in-house study by the contraceptive manufacturer polled 400 women who visited the hair salons enrolled in the initiative; some 65 percent identified the female condom as a basic prevention method against sexually transmitted diseases and HIV; 84 percent said they would be comfortable buying the condom at a hair salon.

'Many clients say they could not buy the condom from shops and pharmacies, for fear of being ridiculed by other shoppers as prostitutes or immoral,' hairdresser Memory Mabhena told IrinNews. 'But now that it is being sold at salons, where the sellers are women, they are much more comfortable in buying it.'
-- Elizabeth Dwoskin

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