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A beauty school for the blind in Amman, Jordan

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Tom A. Peter

(Read caption) Maram Nawas (c.) works with blind beautician students at her beauty school in Amman, Jordan, with the hope of teaching them a livelihood.

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• A local, slice-of-life story from a Monitor correspondent.

While every new idea has its naysayers, it’s not difficult to understand why Maram Nawas initially encountered resistance when she started looking for someone to support a project to train blind women to work as beauticians.

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“People used to tell me that I was crazy and that I had too much free time to sit around and imagine what’s possible,” says Ms. Nawas.

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Two years later, Nawas is graduating her first class of nine women who’ve proved the doubters wrong. While the program is the only one of its kind in the world, it represents a major step forward for the Middle East in general and Jordan in particular. Here, disabled people often face extremely limited opportunities and struggle to find a place in the workforce.

“Even I was doubtful about whether I could learn to do such a skill,” says Jamila al-Taani, a student who now hopes to become a hairdresser’s assistant.

In the course of four months, students learned to do the basics of hairstyling and makeup by touch. The program was set to resume in early May with a new group of participants and a more advanced class for returnees.

Jordan’s beauticians union agreed to give participants a certificate. Within a year, Nawas hopes that she can provide the students with enough training to get them officially licensed.

More than creating potential job opportunities, the program is designed to empower the women and improve their self-esteem, say its sponsors at the Jordan River Foundation’s Queen Rania Family and Child Center.

“There’s no such thing as a physical disability,” says Faten al-Khaldy, a student, speaking on the last day of the first four-month course. “The only disability exists in someone’s mind and his attitude. Once you get rid of that, you can do anything.”

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