Activist Jaha Dukureh Uses Beauty As Armor

We all have different ways of decompressing, and in a year like this one, many of us have needed to lean on those coping mechanisms more than ever. Jaha Dukureh — an activist, the CEO and founder of Safe Hands for Girls, and a brand ambassador for L’Oréal Paris — says that finding time for her beauty routine helps her unwind. “I look at taking care of myself as a way of meditation,” she tells Allure. While many think of meditation as sitting still with your eyes closed, it can look different for everyone, and practicing a self-care ritual is also a valid way to clear one’s mind.

In 2018, Dukureh was appointed Regional UN Women Ambassador for Africa. After being named a L’Oréal Paris Women of Worth Honoree in the same year, she became the first honoree to also become a spokesperson for the brand. She now dedicates her efforts to support the UN Women’s advocacy to end female genital mutilation and child marriage in Africa, causes that are both near and dear to her heart. 

“I’m a survivor of female genital mutilation and child marriage. The way I look and how I express myself through beauty products is my way of showing the world how strong I am,” she tells Allure. Though Dukureh has been through a lot, her past does not define her, and her beauty choices make that clear. She wants to stand out, not fade into the background. “I am not just a consequence of something that happened to me. No one should look at me and feel sorry for me. When people see me they think that I’m a victim of something horrible that happened and that’s all they can see and people rarely can see beyond that.”

As such, she tells Allure that she feels her best wearing bright, bold colors and lipstick. People have remarked in the past that, prior to meeting her, they had preconceived notions of her, and that she looked entirely different in person. “They are used to activists dressing down and not really caring much about the way they look. The way I carry myself — my colorful clothes and makeup — are what makes me feel strong,” she says. 

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