After losing her cousin to cancer last year, Qatar resident Nazma Mazhar wanted to find a way to help people battling the illness.
So the self-taught henna designer is now offering a free service to decorate the heads of women who have lost their hair to chemotherapy.
Mazhar has been free-hand painting intricate Indian and Arabic designs on women’s bodies for the last decade. But this was only usually to mark moments of celebration such as Eids or weddings.
However, her cousin’s death inspired her to want to do more for others in pain.
“I want to help make them feel special because they are suffering from cancer,” the 23-year-old told Doha News.
“I had thought about doing this two or three years ago but hadn’t got around to it. Then one of my cousins got cancer, and she passed away last year. After that I decided to help people.”
After moving to Qatar from Sri Lanka in March this year, the trained primary teacher set up her own business – Qatari Henna Studio – while she looks for teaching work.
She recently kick-started her search for potentially interested clients on popular Facebook page When, Where & How in Doha.
Describing the process, Mazhar said the henna pattern would be gently applied to the scalp of the person who may have lost their hair as a result of chemotherapy.
This can be a traumatic time, particularly for women who often cover their heads with scarves or wigs.
Instead, Mazhar is seeking to transform the patient’s head into a thing of beauty.
“We can also do the designs on the hands, arms, feet or anywhere on the body the lady would like. Henna has cooling power, it is a good medicine,” Mazhar added.
She added that she will speak to the Qatar Cancer Society to identify women with the illness who might be interested in the initiative.
Similar projects have been undertaken in countries across the world.
The idea gained widespread appeal about a decade ago after a studio in San Francisco began applying henna to scalps to boost the confidence of cancer patients and those with alopecia (hair loss).
In recent years, Qatar has launched many public awareness programs for some of its more prevalent cancers, particularly breast and bowel cancer.
Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in Qatar among women, accounting for a third of all cancer cases in this demographic.
However, survival rates are high if the cancer is diagnosed and treated at an early stage.
The Primary Health Care Corporation’s Screen for Life campaign offers mammograms to all women aged 45-69 years, and Qatar’s Ministry of Public Health advises women to have mammograms every three years to aid early detection and treatment.