Today I got my hair cut by a social activist.
It’s easy to breathe in New Creation Salon—the turquoise walls, gleaming wooden floors and breezy arched windows make a sanctuary from the restless midday dust of Kathmandu streets. I relax, my hair in expert hands of Tanuja, a short, feisty Nepali mama.
Before hairdressing, she was in politics. At 19, she traveled to a village in far western Nepal. There she saw a small empty house where women and girls were shut up for four days without food or water: all for the crime of being on their period. They were forbidden to even look a man in the eyes. Tanuja, heartbroken, resolved to give her life to help the women of her country.
At the same time she met Jesus, the man who always looks women in the eyes. Persecuted and misunderstood for her faith, Tanuja never gave up. Then, 8 years ago, she met Lisa.
A young hairdresser in Indiana, Lisa was living a mile-a-minute, on a wild search for God and a reason to keep living. After her last attempt—a two year trip to Europe—she’d found nothing with meaning. It was nearing Christmas, the loneliest time of the year; she knew her life hung by a thread.
She said to her empty apartment: “If there is no God, then who’s gonna save me?”
Then God showed up. She gave him her heart, her life, and never went back. Three years later, she was living in Nepal, giving others the hope she had found. She was asked to teach beautician skills to rescued women. As she watched the girls giving each other hand massages, something clicked. The healing beauty of physical touch had always been her passion, even before she had found God.
She realized: “This is what love looks like to me.”
From then on God sent her to “go wash feet”.
So began New Creation Salon, and the rescuing of many Nepali women’s hearts. Lisa saw God use her own hands and skills to show women they were loved and empower them to be free. Tanuja attended the first training school, and, 8 years later, is now the owner.
New Creation has four spacious rooms for hair, nails, massages and facials. The salon has earned a high reputation, even among rich foreign businesswomen, who are relieved to find somewhere to entrust their temperamental locks.
In Nepal, salons, barbers, and beauty parlors are a dime a dozen, with a “beauty school” on any corner. There are no standards for sanitation and excellence. Worse, many beauty parlours are guises for brothels— for a Nepali girl, being a beautician is not only not honorable, it’s not safe.
“To bring the culture of honor to a beauty salon—that is the huge challenge,” Tanuja says.
A challenge New Creation is overcoming. Their internship program teaches sanitation, consistency, business skills, self-care, and inner healing. They’ve trained 43 girls from unsafe homes, shady massage parlours, dance bars, and cabin restaurants.
“If one person can come here, her whole life can change, and because of her, her whole family can change.”
Tanuja wants to see a culture shift for women in every level of society.
“Even if they’re educated and working hard, in their heart they still feel dominated.”
In the caste-system culture, touching someone’s feet is a symbol of being dominated. The New Creation girls regularly go on outreach to women in slums, brothels and hospitals. They paint nails, give massages, cut hair, and wash feet. The women often cry—no one has ever touched their feet.
There they meet Jesus: breaking the rules, looking them in the eyes, touching their feet, touching their hearts.