Mental Health

In Kenya, Cosmetic Surgery Makes High-Priced Inroad

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Few Kenyan women have enough money to even consider cosmetic surgery. But doctors say higher-earning women are beginning to fuel demand. One woman says she's had four procedures in the past three years.

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Ready for a Fifth Procedure

Between 2008 and 2010, Anne underwent two tummy tucks, a face-lift and a breast reduction. It all cost more than $11,000. She wants a fifth procedure to eliminate her "love handles."

Surgeons say there are no statistics on cosmetic surgery in Kenya, a country where half the population lives at or below the poverty line--according to the World Bank--and where women such as Violet Odalo, a domestic worker, are more the norm.

Odalo says her weekly earnings of $11 are barely enough to support her three children, let alone indulge in beauty luxuries.

"I wish I could afford to make my hair regularly," Odalo says as she touches her head, which is wrapped in a scarf.

But she says her children come first.

"The money I get goes straight to rent and feeding my children," she says.

But among higher-earning women here, tummy tucks and breast reductions are on the rise, according to surgeons interviewed for this story.

"The average plastic surgeon will get five requests a week," says Dr. Audi Tanga, a cosmetic surgeon.

Women Have Their Own Money

"Women are educated and have more money--their own money," says Dr. Loise Kahoro, another cosmetic surgeon. "And those who have conditions that affect them to the point of lowering their self-worth now can rectify their condition and boost their self-worth."

Sue, who also declined to give her last name to protect her privacy, is in her 40s and has one child. She says that after years of emotional abuse from her husband, she paid $5,500 to have a tummy tuck and a breast lift to boost her self-esteem.

Christine Nguku, who works in the media, says that most women who take advantage of the beauty industry here are in their mid-30s to early 40s.

"Women at this age tend to be more conscious that they are aging," Nguku says. "They are extra sensitive on taking care of their skin, hands, nails and legs."

Nguku says they can afford it and feel they need it to stay competitive.

"They have their retirement set up," she says. "They own private businesses outside of employment. They need that extra look and edge over younger counterparts in business to be taken seriously by their clientele."

Joyce Owiti, a hair-weave specialist, says she earns $440 a month in commission on weaves that can cost $500 apiece.

These trends are part of an ongoing argument here about whether westernized beauty ideals are undermining African women.

"Western beauty is popularized--tall, lean bodies," says Dr. Pius Mutie, a sociologist. "And there have also been attempts to blend it with what people consider as 'African beauty'--nice legs, hips."

But Nguku says African women are merely evolving their own look--both absorbing and influencing global fashion sensibilities.


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Rose Odengo joined Global Press Institute's Kenya News Desk in 2011. Through her writing, she aims to help the world understand Africa better.

ATTRIBUTION: Adapted from original content published by the Global Press Institute. Read the original article here. All shared content has been copyrighted by Global Press Institute.

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I find it really quite immoral that women are paying large amounts of money for cosmetic surgery in a country where famine and extreme povery is rife. I totally object to the notion of female economic independence meaning that women can afford to pay for beauty treatments. Body Image and beautification issues are not signs of female advancement.