Gaza WomenSince 2011, the European Union opened its market to Palestinian exports, including all agricultural products. For many years, Palestinian farmers have taken advantage of this trade deal by exporting herbs to Europe where the herbs are turned into cosmetics and beauty products. Now, however, women in Gaza have taken it upon themselves to synthesize the herbs into cosmetic products they can sell themselves. In a factory in Gaza city, four female employees are extracting essential oils from herbs, which then becomes the main ingredient used to make beauty and personal care products. The herbs cultivated include rosemary, basil, mint, thyme and chamomile and all originate from women-owned farms.

Oxfam Australia Supports Women in Gaza

As part of its initiative to help countries recover from the economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Oxfam Australia worked with partners in Gaza and ran listening workshops to understand how the pandemic affected 32 women-led businesses in order to understand their challenges and how to support them.

In a summary of the workshops, Oxfam’s Economic Justice team found that, despite the proliferation of women (60%) working in the “shadow economy” or informal economy, women possess the will to grow small businesses and achieve greater market penetration. But, the pandemic has put a great strain on their efforts, especially the efforts of micro or small women-led businesses as women have had to significantly minimize or halt their production because the required COVID-19 protocols jeopardize the minimum profit gained. Further, the team found that Palestine’s weak market demand and absence of a culture supporting local products add to the burden of small businesses.  Ultimately, these findings inspired Oxfam’s support of several women-led businesses in Gaza, including the women-owned cosmetic factory.

The GG Cosmetics Range

With a range of up to 17 products including cleansers, body washes and shampoos, the Gaza cosmetic brand is titled GG  stands for “Green Gold,” which is the name given to mint by farmers of Northern Gaza. One of the women leading the business tells Reuters that “When you hold the product, you feel like you are taking something from the earth — with no additives.” So far, 50 stores sell the products, including 30 pharmacies across Gaza. In one of the pharmacies selling the brand, a pharmacist says that she likes the products because “they are natural and have no chemicals in them.”

Sustainable in More Ways Than One

According to the World Bank, about 50% of people in Gaza are unemployed and more than 50% of Gaza’s people live in poverty. Considering these statistics, support from organizations such as Oxfam is essential. As well as encouraging sustainable sources of income for Palestinian women and their children, the GG cosmetic business also promotes plant-based cosmetics, which are far less harsh on the skin than conventional makeup.

Overall, efforts to localize the manufacturing and sale of cosmetics in Gaza are empowering women and creating opportunities for future women entrepreneurs. In this way, women become financially independent and are able to provide for themselves and their families. These efforts, in a time of extreme oppression and strife in Gaza, are helping to “embroider the blueprint for both liberation and sovereignty, for resistance and remedying the aftermath of oppression.”

– Annarosa Zampaglione

Photo: Flickr

Ghanaian women in poverty
It is undeniable that, right now, the makeup, skincare and haircare industries are flourishing globally and are predicted to continue their economic rise well into the future. According to Euromonitor International, in 2020, the beauty industry’s net profit reached $500.5 billion — a more than 5% increase from 2019. Broken down by category: general cosmetic care earned $307 billion, skincare acquired $145.2 billion, haircare collected $79.2 billion and premium beauty earned $139 billion. The industry’s forecast predicts an annual net profit of $756.63 billion by 2026

Right now in Ghana, the beauty industry is experiencing a cultural role shift and growth in profit. The increasing population of young people is beginning to explore skin, beauty and hair care — and they’re looking locally. As this industry grows, Ghana-based brands are looking to do more than just provide beauty products. Through outreach programs and innovative business plans and programs, personal care companies are working to provide financial aid, job opportunities, equitable support and empower Ghanaian women. Here are three Ghana-based beauty brands empowering Ghanaian women in poverty.

3 Beauty Brands Empowering Ghanaian Women in Poverty

  1. FC Beauty Group Limited: Established more than 30 years ago in Ghana, FC Beauty Group Limited (FCBGL), not only provides and distributes high-quality hair and beauty products at a wholesale price to local salons but also hosts extensive outreach programs for impoverished women. FCBGL launched the Grace Amey-Obeng Foundation International in the summer of 2007. This foundation has made it a priority to aid Ghanaian women in poverty, with the purpose of providing young women an education, training and a sense of self. Through this program, FCBGL has focused its outreach to young homeless women, some of whom must engage in prostitution to financially support themselves. For women who engage in transactional sex consensually, the foundation provides them with skills to prevent difficulties in their profession. These skills include preventing pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases and exploitation. For women who do not wish to continue this work, the brand offers job prospects and training that allow them to change their economic direction. The brand continues its outreach work by partnering with the Osu Girls’ correctional facility to provide inmates with hirable skills for future economic success. FC Beauty Group Limited hosts another program titled the “Tutsi Project.” The Tutsi Project’s agenda is to act as insurance for the women who have completed FCBGL’s training programs and are now pursuing a career. Since its conception, the FC Beauty College has trained more than 6,000 economically successful students. Seed money is provided to women looking to start their own businesses. Many trainees are full-time mothers as well as entrepreneurs and FCBGL’s investment at the beginning of their career allows them to feel financially supported.
  2. Nokware Skincare: With old-school natural products and innovative ideas, the brand Nokware, meaning “truth,” creates all products from recipes and raw materials passed down through Ghanaian women’s lineage. Remaining local is an important piece of Nokware’s business plan and the brand solely uses materials that can be found and farmed by local African women. By practicing fair trade and pricing deals, Nokware can work towards its overall mission: economic inclusion. Recognizing the financial disparity many Ghanaian women face, this brand works to exclusively buy locally to put money back into the community and create a space for those who have been neglected in the workforce. By situating “community commerce” at the forefront of its company, Nokware works to stimulate the Ghanaian economy from the inside out. Empowerment of Ghanaian women in poverty is very important to Nokware Skincare. The brand works to accomplish that goal by primarily hiring women who face a substantial wage gap. Recognizing them as powerful resources, Nokware also staffs its executive boards and factory floors with Ghanaian women in an effort to minimize the prevalent wage gap in the country. The company’s “Nokware for Women” fund is an educational scholarship program available to the daughters of Nokware employees to diminish gender inequalities in education.
  3. True Moringa: Named after the extensive benefits of the plant found in northern Ghana, True Moringa is a brand that creates a diverse selection of products that all contain the oil of the True Moringa tree. On a trip with MIT’s D-Lab to Ghana, Kwai Williams and Emily Cunningham learned about the aforementioned tree, known as the “miracle tree,” from local farmers. The plant contains high levels of Vitamin A, calcium and protein. It also has the ability to grow and strengthen other crops in any climate. After learning this, Williams and Cunningham realized that the plant could minimize poverty and malnutrition in the country, and bring economic opportunities to farmers while providing consumers with high-quality skin and hair care products. The founders were aware of the lack of training, reliable commerce and income insecurity Ghanaian farmers face. As a result, they created a business plan that could compete with more established beauty brands and source locally to raise the monetary value of the brand’s contributing farmers. The company’s website states that the creation and application of the True Moringa brand has served more than 5,000 farming families, planted more than 2 million trees and increased local Ghanian farming revenue tenfold. In addition to the economic growth created through local sourcing, True Moringa allows customers to make an impact. With every purchase made, True Moringa will plant a tree which, in turn, combats deforestation and malnutrition in the small farming communities the brand works with. The True Moringa skin and hair care brand not only works to contribute to the beauty industry and empower Ghanaians by providing high-quality products, but also looks outside to create sustainable incomes and resources to empower Ghanaian women in poverty and their families.

All of these brands have created a positive impact on Ghanaian women in poverty. They have done so by looking beyond the cosmetic aspects of their products and focus on empowering women through their incomes, access to food and financial well-being. These brands have given hope to women and families for a better future, and have continued to walk alongside them as they move into a more financially secure future.

– Alexa Tironi
Photo: Flickr

EnterpriseFor Sharon Njavika, the idea of starting her own business began while she was studying abroad in Staffordshire, England. How We Made it in Africa notes that Njavika was one of the only black females in the city and therefore had limited to access to hair and skincare products that fit her needs.

She would have to travel to the next town over to get her hair chemically straightened and recalls becoming frustrated with the constant upkeep of her looks, which she believed were necessary in order to fit in with her surrounding culture.

Njavika told How We Made it in Africa, “one time my friend was doing my hair and I got a bad wound from the chemical relaxer. It was a big flesh wound, and the experience was traumatic.” After this incident, Njavika ditched the chemicals and started looking for a more natural way to manage her hair.

As an HCD (Health, Community and Development) graduate, Njavika utilized her practice of health and well-being to create her own social enterprise, AJANI handmade. Journalist Banke Falade recognizes that AJANI handmade markets natural hair products specifically for black hair as well as general natural hair care.

Njavika writes, “The business model is grounded in perpetuating messages and images of worth, beauty, agency and capacity by and for African women. Through participating in and facilitating conversations online and otherwise, we aim to address the sometimes ignored, often dynamic, social narratives that affect young African women.”

Njavika’s business is based in Kenya, where a growing number of women are embracing the natural look.

However, Njavika social enterprise faces some challenges, such as limited access to financing, raw materials and high quality packing materials. The young entrepreneur also keeps a full-time job in order to cover her personal expenses and fund the growing business.

An African blog writer commented, “she has such a passion and drive for this new company that I can only see it developing, growing and thriving in the months and years to come. I think the aspect that most caught my attention is the fact that AJANI Handmade is much more than just selling beauty/care products. They focus on self-love, confidence, well-being and supporting black women.”

Njavika focuses on perpetuating messages of beauty and self-worth, demonstrating the principles that drive her social enterprise, AJANI handmade.

Megan Hadley

beauty_products_that_donate_to_charityNowadays, there are many beauty and makeup companies that are selling beauty products that donate to charity to aid different humanitarian causes.

Fundraising activities, partnering with nonprofit organizations for projects or giving donations through sales of their products are some examples that these companies use to support and advocate for good causes.

Brands like The Body Shop, Kiehl’s, LUSH, Philosophy, Mama Sopa, Balanced Guru, UNE Natural Beauty, Murad, MAC Cosmetics, GIVESCENT and Ten Thousand Villages use some, if not many, of their products to collect donations through their purchases.

Each brand supports different humanitarian causes such as AIDS reduction, poverty, hunger, water conservation and animal and environment protection, among other things.

Here are 10 beauty products that contribute to charity when purchased:

  1. All Philosophy products: According to Philosophy’s website, one percent of the sales of every Philosophy product will go to community-based organizations that support mental health. The brand commits to supporting mental health and well-being through their “Hope & Grace Initiative.”
  2. “Soft Hands Kind Heart Hand Cream” by The Body Shop: This hand cream was available to buy early in 2015, and is accessible in all The Body Shop stores worldwide. The purchase of this product gives a donation of £1.50 to The Body Shop Foundation, a foundation that advocates for human rights and environmental and animal protection.
  3. Ten Thousand Villages soaps and creams: Ten Thousand Villages is a fair trade retailer company that works to empower artisans in developing countries. The company sells a variety of products ranging from jewelry to bath accessories. Their skincare products, such as soaps and creams, are made in places like Ghana, India, Israel and Zimbabwe, and their purchase contributes to helping artisans in these countries.
  4. “New Charity Pot” by LUSH: The “Charity Pot” is a body lotion created with natural ingredients by the cosmetic brand LUSH. With every purchase of this body lotion, 100 percent of the sale is donated to different organizations supporting human rights, animal welfare and environmental conservation.
  5. “Shark Fin Soap” by LUSH: This is a limited edition soap by cosmetic brand LUSH. Made with natural ingredients for Discovery Channel’s “Shark Week,” 100 percent of the proceeds from the purchase of this item will go to organizations dedicated to the conservation and protection of sharks.
  6. “Viva Glam” products by MAC Cosmetics: Created by MAC Cosmetics, “Viva Glam” is a lip makeup collection that donates 100 percent of the price for every purchased product. These donations go to the MAC AIDS Fund, which addresses the relation between poverty and HIV/AIDS and supports various organizations around the globe. Celebrities like Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Miley Cyrus, Ricky Martin, Nicki Minaj and Boy George are some of the artists that have participated in the “Viva Glam” campaign.
  7. All GIVESCENT products: This brand has a collection of Italy-inspired scents. The purchase of any bottle of GIVESCENT supports women worldwide as well as different women-centered campaigns. Some of the organizations that the brand supports are Every Mother Counts and Women for Women International.
  8. “Fund-raising Lip Balm” by UNE Natural Beauty: This natural product, created by UNE Natural Beauty, donates £1 to Plan, a children’s charity. The lip balm’s donations are destined to support a project by Plan that provides education to girls in Cameroon.
  9. “Live Beautifully Set” by Murad: This Murad’s limited-edition set includes an eye cream and an inspirational book by Dr. Murad. Ten percent of the sale results in a donation that supports the Murad Esthetics Scholarship Program through the Beauty Changes Live Foundation.
  10. All Mama Sopa products: Created for a social hygiene project for The Dutch Simavi Foundation, Mama Sopa is a collection of shower gels, soap bars and hand soaps with a good purpose.

According to an article published by The Dieline, every Mama Sopa product sold gives hygienic trainings by The Dutch Simavi Foundation to vulnerable mothers in East India.

Diana Fernanda Leon

Sources: Philosophy, The Body Shop Foundation, Ten Thousand Villages, LUSH 1, LUSH 2, Mac Cosmetics, Give Scent, UNE Make up, Murad, The Dieline
Photo: The Dieline

It is not uncommon for people to spend a lot of money on their appearance: make-up, monthly haircuts, manicures and pedicures, and sometimes extremes such as cosmetic surgery. Feeling well groomed in a world where appearance is frequently judged gives us a boost of confidence.

The most recent trend is teeth whitening, which comes in many forms. Celebrities constantly flaunt their pearly whites and it is no surprise that people are willing to spend extra money on products that promise them flawless, blinding white teeth. But is the cost really worth it when the same money could be better spent on causes that make a global difference?

The popular cosmetic service varies from whitening strips to whitening toothpastes to receiving professional bleaching at a dentist’s office.

Here is a cost comparison looking at how money spent on whitening products could provide mosquito nets for children fighting against the risk of malaria.

Crest Whitestrips, one of the most popular brands, range in price from $21 to $65 depending on the number of strips and the length of time one is supposed to wear the strips for. The most common version is the $30 pack, which can last people at least two months. After a year an individual can spend about $180 on whitening strips. The product claims it can whiten teeth just as effectively as a dentist’s professional whitening.

Lately most brands that carry average toothpaste and mouthwash also carry versions of those toothpastes and mouthwashes in whitening versions, ranging from Colgate and Crest to Sensodyne. These toothpastes and mouthwashes, although less costly than whitestrips or professional whitening, do usually cost more than the average product. They range from $5 to about $20 per item and do not necessarily produce the desired result. Depending on how much you pay and when you replace your toothpaste or mouthwash, the average person brushing twice daily can spend upwards of $30 to $120 dollars annually.

There are two versions of professional teeth whitening: Custom Bleaching Trays and Laser Teeth Whitening. Teeth Whitening Trays can cost anywhere between $150 to $1,500 per treatment, and Laser Teeth Whitening can cost a very expensive $500 to $2,500 per session. These treatments can take many different sessions in order to get the desired results.

Project Mosquito Net is a non-profit whose mission is to raise enough money to provide “insecticide treated bed nets to children and pregnant mothers in Kenya to prevent malaria infections and deaths.” One child is estimated to die every 30 seconds from malaria.

A mosquito net only costs $5 each, meaning that the average cost of a whitening toothpaste could provide one child or a pregnant woman with a net that could save their lives. If ten people donated the cost of one Laser Teeth Whitening session 1,000 children would be protected against deadly malaria.

Theoretically if 10 people donated their annual spending on $30 Crest Whitestrips, 360 nets would be able to be provided to children in Kenya. This puts into perspective how many lives could be changed if just a few people decided to help others instead of treating themselves.

Next time you purchase a whitening toothpaste, a box of Crest Whitestrips, or an expensive laser treatment, think about helping a young child or a pregnant woman in Kenya by providing them with protection against disease. You just might save a life.

– Becka Felcon

Sources: Dentistry for Madison, Smile Sensation, NBC News, Project Mosquito Net
Photo: Healthy Palm