Thursday, June 25, 2009

Shea Yeleen - Shea Butter with a Double Purpose

We all know about the miracle properties of shea butter; that it is an extraordinarily effective moisturizer for dry skin, eliminates stretch marks, promotes cell renewal and even helps protect skin from harmful UV rays. But not many people know the amazing story of how shea butter is actually created---by the hands of women living in Africa's embattled regions, who labor for hours on end to produce this highly sought after ingredient for mere pennies a day.

Shea Yeleen International, a non-profit organization, has set a goal nothing short of a miracle in itself. Not only is it their mission to organize and train women in the villages of Ghana, Burkina Faso, and Mali to produce high quality natural shea butter, SYI uses this shea butter as the main component in a decadent and high quality body care line that they make available for sale to the western world. Fifty percent of the profits go right back to these African communities to further empower these women to sustain livings and provide for their families.

Rahama Wright, Shea Yeleen's Executive Director came up with the idea to create the nonprofit organization while serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in the poorer regions of rural West Africa. "I've always been interested in poverty issues and in Africa," Wright, who's mother's side of the family is from Ghana, explains. "By living and working in Africa, I became inspired by the women there who have these tremendous challenges in terms of poverty, but at the same time, have so much beauty and joy and inner strength." Just last November, Wright's efforts led her to become one of 80 winners in the first-ever leadership training contest spearheaded by Oprah: Women Rule! O's White House Leadership Project Contest (3,000 women applied).

Imagine that you are a woman in a small rural village in West Africa, struggling financially to care for your family. Following a tradition handed down by your mother, you produce shea butter, oil found in the nut of the shea fruit, as a means to make money. To process the shea butter, you start with a five kilometer walk to harvest the fruit and then follow a labor intensive process of hand extracting that takes up to 20 hours to produce 2-4 kilograms of oil. You sell a portion of the shea oil on the local market for 20 cents a kilogram. It is not very much money, yet to you it is better than nothing.

What if you knew about an international demand for the very product you labor to produce? On the international market, thousands of different kinds of cosmetics products are made using shea butter, and sold for $10-$60 for a few ounces. However, you do not have access to this market even though the natural resource originates several kilometers from where you live. What if this could change?

"Women in rural West Africa are the creators of shea butter, and it makes sense to join the popularity of shea butter and natural products to the need for women producers in rural Africa to overcome poverty- it's a win-win situation because consumers receive the best shea butter product that will nourish their skin, and women receive above market rates for their shea butter. As we begin to expand, we will demonstrate that transforming the skincare market can also transform communities," said Rahama Wright, Executive Director of Shea Yeleen International.

Shea Yeleen Products

Honeysuckle and Lavender Scented Body Butter
An ultra-hydrating vitamin rich shea formula that instantly soothes dry skin while leaving it glowing and softly-scented with honeysuckle and lavender essential oils. (Retail: $25, 6 oz.)

Honeysuckle and Lavender Scented Body Balm
This dense, natural shea butter, combined with lavender and honeysuckle oils, is especially perfect for soothing extra dry skin from head to toe. Just the smallest amount will leave skin soft and radiant. (Retail: $20, 4 oz.)

Unscented Body Balm
Made from100% natural shea butter, this body balm protects your skin from daily elements like harsh weather and hard water. Excellent for dry, irritated and sensitive skin on elbows, knees, hands and feet. (Retail: $20, 4 oz.)

Baby Balm
This baby balm is rich with skin nourishing elements which calm your baby's skin and protects it from harsh elements. Ingredients include shea butter, avocado oil, aloe vera, calendual oil, essential oils of lavender, rosemary, chamomile, comfrey, and natural baby powder fragrance. (Retail: $20, 4 oz.)

Cherry and Peppermint Lip Balms
This delicious lip balm (available in peppermint or cherry) will moisturize and heal your dry, chapped lips, leaving them kissable and soft. (Retail: $5, .5 oz.)

I've had an opportunity to try the body butter, body balm and the lip balms. These are richly hydrating products with lovely, subtle scents. They instantly moisturize even very dry skin and I've fast become a fan for keeping my hands and arms smooth and moisturized. Skin is left with a healthy glow and lips are hydrated and supple. I've tried an amber body balm and a lavender honeysuckle butter, both of which are subtle in scent - fresh without being overpowering. They've newly introduced two varieties of hand-crafted shea butter soaps in their offerings, lavender and lemongrass. I'm hoping to try those soon. Such wonderful products, such a fabulous giving back to the communities that produce them - that's a winning situation all around! And, you can't beat the prices for the quality. What a fantastic project.

Learn more about Shea Yeleen International and their gorgeous products online.

1 comment:

  1. Their happy hour fundraiser should be a good time


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