For anyone struggling with dry skin, shea butter is a popular choice. It has the benefits of being super moisturizing, while not being all that hard, to find. But have you ever paused to think about how the shea butter you use is sourced?
Shea butter is extracted from the nut of the shea tree that’s indigenous to Africa. Unfortunately, many of the women who make shea butter are exploited or abused. The exploitation of African women living on the continent isn’t unique to the shea butter industry alone, but it is something that has to change.
That’s where Real Raw Shea (RRS) comes in. Founded by Aisha Suraz and Alfred Glover, RRS is a global supplier of shea butter and other natural ingredients with a focus on sustainability.
Ghana is one of the largest producers of shea butter in the world. According to the European Union’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ghana has the largest mechanical shea processing capacity.
Suraz and Glover are both of Ghanaian descent — and even learned later that their fathers were life-long friends from Ghana. Together, the two are driven to ensure that RRS disrupts the exploitation of women in Ghana.
The company plans to accomplish that with a commitment to leveraging partnerships with local cooperatives in various regions throughout Ghana. In addition, RRS has pledged to reinvest a portion of all profits back into the local communities that it works with.
For Suraz, the inspiration for launching RRS came directly from her obsession with raw beauty products. During one of her family trips to Ghana, Suraz had an allergic reaction that resulted in facial hives for some of her trip.
Suraz’s own family comes from the northern region of Ghana where the shea tree grows abundantly. As a result, the technique for creating shea butter has been passed down for generations by women in the community. Suraz was motivated to implement the sustainability aspect into her business model because she says she knows the struggle.
“I grew up in America. A lot of my family members live in Ghana. They didn’t have the opportunity that my parents provided for my siblings and I,” Suraz said. “Being part of the diaspora, a lot of people forget where they come from. That’s not something I ever want to lose, so that’s something we had to include in our business model.”
About a year ago, RRS began working with women in a tribal community in Ghana. The women had been making shea butter for years but were often underpaid. RRS helped them establish an official cooperative, opened up a bank account on the women’s behalf, and are currently working on getting their fair trade certification.
So far, RRS has invested $10,000 back into the communities that they work with. Although RRS wants to keep some of its secrets, the company shared that it definitely has plans to expand in the future. For Suraz, what’s most important is remembering the women who make it all possible.
“The whole point of this business is to promote sustainability and growth among women in Africa,” Suraz said. “To me, it’s a long term: what are we doing for people in the community?”
As Suraz pointed out — this is about the community, but most importantly, the women.
“This is all about the women. Without them, Real Raw Shea does not exist.”
Editor’s note: Alfred Glover, one of the founder of Real Raw Shae is an employee at Blavity Inc, the company that owns Afrotech.