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Mehvish is making business work for beauticians

Makeovers at home, Mehvish’s new business model for the beauty industry in Pakistan, is improving lives for previously exploited women.

Beauty parlours may not seem the obvious place to revolutionise employment practices for women, but a young entrepreneur in Pakistan realised that some changes within the industry could provide a way for women to link directly with their clients and avoid the exploitation of working in salons.

The spur to get started

Five years ago, Mehvish Arifeen was a fresh Master’s graduate working in the social development sector, in areas of financial inclusion and flood relief. Then, in 2016, she participated in a start-up competition, organised by Oxfam’s Empower Youth for Work (EYW) partner, The Indus Entrepreneurs (TiE). Her idea of decentralising beauty services to empower women won third prize, following which she and three co-founders launched their start-up ‘GharPar’ (meaning ‘At home’) in Lahore, the hub of economic activity in Pakistan.

Changing ugly work practices

“The beauty parlour industry is exploitative, and because women workers lack awareness about their rights, they pose little to no resistance to unfair work policies,” says Mehvish, who is now GharPar’s Chief Operations Officer. The social enterprise provides an alternative to working in beauty parlours – a convenient and professional at-home beauty service for women. It connects beauticians from suburban areas with well-to-do clients, through a web and mobile phone-based platform, which is a route into work not previously available to the women.

Improving the beauty business

The average take-home pay of a GharPar beautician is four times that of a beautician working in a bricks-and-mortar salon. To help these beauticians improve their service, ‘GharPar’ offers a range of training sessions intended to build their capacity for work, while also teaching them good work ethics. “We at GharPar recognize the difficulties faced by women workers who belong to low-income families; most of them are widowed or divorced and have to fend for themselves and their children,” Mehvish explains. The training is designed to fill the gaps in their skills and knowledge so they become a confident work force.

Creating beautiful solutions

When women from tight-knit communities, such as those around Lahore, leave their homes for work, they face two particular barriers: security concerns and backlash from the family and community, who question their motives behind leaving the comforts of home in favour of the market place. Over time, Mehvish and her co-founders have developed a close relationship with their employees and noted the problems they face on a daily basis. “Our model is a constantly evolving one,” she says. “For instance, seeing that mobility was an issue for these beauticians, we decided to create a solution whereby beauticians would go directly from their homes to the home of the client with a guardian.”

The skills for success

GharPar’s mission is to get as many unemployed beauticians on board as possible, and to create lucrative employment opportunities for these, often underemployed, women across Pakistan. “I’ve even seen cases where, owing to lack of financial literacy and access to markets, women run parlours in their communities at a loss,” Mehvish says, raising another concern. “Through our platform, they can earn the extra cash that they need to run salons in their communities and to save enough to contribute towards the household.”

Where next?

Today, Mehvish and her business partners have expanded their operations to the capital, Islamabad, and they plan to move into Faisalabad as well. Eventually, they want to go national, bringing high-quality beauty services into homes wherever they are needed, and providing a secure income for thousands of women.


Mehvish‘s story is part of the multiyear campaign, kicked off on International Youth Day 2019 by the Empower Youth for Work program and the Work in Progress! alliance. The campaign aims to support the national influencing work of the respective programs by joining forces with local role models. The ripples of #Iwasthere are spreading out around the world and these stories are proof that change can happen anywhere – we hope they will inspire you, too, to become an active citizen. 

Why these stories?

There are more young people today than ever before in the history of the world; 1.8 billion people between the ages of 10 and 24 worldwide, and 90% of them live in low-income countries. . Harnessing the energy and strength of young women and men to become active citizens is core to Oxfam's goal of transformational change.

With their energy, skills and creativity, young people have the potential to be the driving force for social change, strong economies and vibrant democracies. 

Oxfam is working jointly with youth to challenge barriers that prevent them from


Enjoying their rights


Participating fully in society


Being an effective voice in decision-making processes