Returning natural is becoming quite popular lately as the natural hair movement is rapidly growing around the world. However, there are some countries like Cameroon where a greater population of women have not yet embraced their natural hair and still believe their hair needs to be ‘corrected’ by the use of relaxers.
Cameroon has always been my home, and growing up I learnt and followed the fashion trends of my country. As a girl who studied in a school where all the students had to keep low cut hair, I was very excited to grow out my hair. When I got to University, I knew relaxing my hair was a must because almost all the girls had relaxed hair. My relaxed hair was doing great for the first 3 years. But towards the fourth year, my hair became very thin, the colour changed from black to brown and my hair broke off badly. The damage was so bad and it prompted me to return natural.
Cameroon has always been a free country where wearing natural hair has never been an issue neither in schools nor in the corporate world. Though Cameroon has two educational systems : the British and French systems, wearing natural hair has never been a problem in schools that follow either system. Infact most schools that follow the British system require all students to keep low cut hair and they are not not permitted to apply relaxers or texturizers on their hair. In other schools were students are actually permitted to grow out their hair, there is no descrimination about being natural. The schools usually have just one rule and that is for girls to braid their hair. This has nothing to do with natural hair being considered unkempt or unpresentable but it’s just a disciplinary rule to maintain some sort of uniformity among the students.
Likewise in the corporate world, women aren’t pressurized either about straightening their hair. Yet what’s surprising is the fact that several women still have the urge to continue using chemical straighteners. One major reason is because most women view afro hair care as being extremely challenging and tedious. This challenge comes about as a result of lack of knowledge on caring for afro hair. Several women have no clue on how to go about it so they feel prompted to straighten their hair because they believe it’s the only way to make their hair manageable, easy to style and less time consuming to care for. Coupled with the fact that Cameroonian natural hair bloggers and vloggers are quite few, some women who have embraced their kinks rely on american vloggers to learn how to care for their hair and get to know products they can use. The problem however that these women face is that american vloggers propose and do reviews on american brands of products which are not found in Cameroon or are extremely difficult to find. In addition to that, there are limited hair care industries in Cameroon that manufacture products formulated specifically for kinky hair. In order to solve this problem, I decided to share natural homemade recipes on my facebook platform in order to push forward the natural hair agenda in Cameroon and other African countries where women face similar challenges.
Another problem women face is that despite the many qualified hair care workers available who braid, place weaves, relax and style hair perfectly, hair care workers who have the knowledge and specialize in the maintenance of afro hair are quite few. The few available have their salons located in the major big cities of the country ( Douala and Yaounde ) where the economy is booming and the charges for their services are higher compared to regular salons. As a result most women can’t afford such services and would rather continue to visit regular salons where they will spend less and can get all the advice they need on caring for their relaxed hair.
However, the natural hair movement in Cameroon is slowly growing as women are becoming more aware of the damage chemical straighteners can cause on their hair and are beginning to embrace their kinks. I strongly believe the movement will grow tremendously in the near future and we will be able to organize big natural hair festivals which will involve influencers from other countries. For now a few workshops have been hosted which involved product give-aways and lectures on natural hair care. The turn out however has not been massive because workshops are not really announced as a big event but rather advertized with the help of flyers that circulate in facebook and whatsapp natural hair groups. Another reason may be the fact that some people live far from the city where the workshops are being hosted.
I strongly believe the natural hair movement in Cameroon would grow in the near future and the natural hair agenda would be a total success. All it takes is to educate women to embrace their kinks, teach them how to care for it and make them aware that afro hair is versatile. Returning natural is one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life and I don’t regret it !!!
SHORT BIO : Irene Mukoko is a 32 years old natural hair enthusiast and blogger from the city of Buea, Cameroon. She has been natural for almost 5 years and in the course, developed the passion of learning how to care for afro textured hair. Through the help of published articles on afro hair and by experimenting on her own hair, Irene finally set out to educate women on afro hair care to encourage them to value and be proud of their heritage. She has been teaching about natural hair care through her facebook platform where she also shares simple diy hair care recipes with her followers. She also shares her natural hair journey on her instagram page (@natural.irene) with the aim to inspire women in their own natural hair journey. Still with the goal to educate and inspire women to embrace their natural hair, Irene has written a book on natural hair care for beginners which will be released in August this year. She also inspire to create her own afro haircare line in the near future to push forward the natural hair agenda in her country.