This article was originally published in March 2018
Alaffia Sustainable Skin Care – Empowering Women in Togo
Headquartered in Olympia, Washington, Alaffia is one of only two Fair for Life certified body care organizations in the nation. Fair for Life is a rigorous certification that assures that human rights and fair working conditions are safeguarded at all production stages. Alaffia is a cooperative, giving back through health, education and sustainability projects.
Alaffia’s origin is a love story. Born and raised in the village of Kaboli, Togo, Olowo-n’djo Tchala grew up sharing a single small room with his mother and seven siblings, leaving school in sixth grade to work alongside his mother on her farm. In 1996 Olowo-n’djo met and fell in love with Washington-native Rose Hyde, who was volunteering with the Peace Corps in Kaboli. The couple moved to Washington together with the goal of building a business to help alleviate poverty in West Africa.
There’s no question that the two succeeded in their goal. Today Alaffia produces an array of body, face and hair care products that promote holistic beauty and support ethical business practices. The Alaffia cooperative works with women in Togo to collect and extract raw shea butter. The women carefully wash and dry the nuts and use waist-high wooden pestles to grind and pound them by hand. In contrast, industrial shea oil is extracted with hexane and other chemical solvents, and beneficial antioxidants and vitamins are stripped away.
Alaffia measures success not only in profits, but also in empowerment. Funded through the sales of Alafﬁa products, the company supports a wide range of Empowerment Projects, including several education-based projects, maternal health, eyeglasses and reforestation. In one Empowerment Project Alaffia funds full pre- and postnatal care to women in rural Togo, where the maternal mortality rate is one in 16. Alaffia also partners with local Togolese health clinics to support a broad range of women’s health issues, including nutrition education, preventing female genital mutilation and much more.
Alaffia’s raw shea becomes the base for its shampoos, conditioners, lotions, creams, lip balms and soaps. Artificial preservatives, parabens and petroleum derivatives are prohibited and none of Alaffia’s products are ever tested on animals. Shea butter nourishes skin, eases pain, prevents scars and heals burns. This time of year, shea butter may also be helpful in relieving congestion when rubbed topically on the sinus area, and as a comfort for dry, cracked skin or sore joints.
The word “alaffia” is a common greeting in Togo, and means a state of peace, health and well-being.