Sonia Ekemon, 40, first learned to braid her hair as a child when she lived in a refugee camp in Benin, a West African country. She emigrated to the United States in 2000 after she honed her skills over the years and eventually obtained a professional hair braiding license as a teenager.
As an employee of the Idaho Central Credit Union, she thought that providing hair braiding skills was a good way to make additional money. It was illegal until she knew it.
“I’m a single mother … my husband died of liver cancer,” Boise resident Ekemon said at a press conference on Tuesday. “I have a mortgage and three little kids and I have to take care of them and feed them. This is what I have to do to feed my kids. I really need them.”
In Idaho, people need to have a cosmetology license to braid their hair for money. It’s one of the remaining five states that still need it. Ekemon and two other female refugees from Africa, Tedy Okech and Charlotte Amoussou, are working with the Libertarian and public interest law firm Institute for Justice to appeal to the state for the right to braid hair without a license.
“You shouldn’t need government permission to use the safe skills you learned when you were young to support your family,” Sudan-born Boise-based Oketch said in a news release.
At a press conference on Tuesday about the stairs of the Capitol, they complained that they had to get an expensive and time-consuming license that didn’t even require them to learn how to knit hair.
Aidaho’s beauty license requires 1,600 hours of training and can cost up to $ 20,000. The state does not require cosmetology schools to teach “African-style” hair braiding. Instead, hair braiders need to learn complex techniques such as how to cut, color, and chemically treat hair. The same is true if you do not intend to provide these services.
“Before these women can legally use their skills to make a living, they have to spend thousands of dollars and learn a profession that has little to do with knitting for at least a year,” Caroline Grace said. A judicial lawyer at the Brothers Institute said at a press conference.
According to the Legal Training and Research Institute, of the 110 written cosmetology exam questions, only two test students on braiding, and the hands-on exam does not cover this topic at all.
The Legal Training and Research Institute filed a proceeding in Boise’s federal court on Tuesday..
“Instead of getting the business off the ground, Idaho’s hair braiders are caught up in meaningless regulation,” said Dan Alban, senior lawyer at the Legal Institute. “Idaho should not close entrepreneurs with unnecessary licensing laws.”
The law firm said it filed the first proceedings on behalf of Hairblader in 1991 and has helped eliminate licensing requirements in 31 states since then.
The Idaho Attorney General’s office did not immediately return the call for comment.