In Society

The solidarity of fair-trade shea butter

Whilst the women of the industrialized world reunited and marched against the Trump Government in order to protect and strengthen their inherent rights within a democratic society, forgotten are the West African women who are not only fighting for their education as well as their children’s but for their utter survival.  It is abominable that in 2017  these women remain in the shadows of their sisters from across the ocean.

With this in mind I contacted a Quebec company, Karité Delapointe,  which I knew dared go down the road less traveled, the fair-trade road, and which I knew held these women close to their hearts. To be fair-trade one must be somewhat inconvenienced but to my astonishment Praxède Lévesque-Lapointe, the co-founder and owner,  clearly explained to me how it wasn’t as difficult as one might think to be a fair-trade enterprise. She also explained how the benefits definitely outweigh the responsibilities. I listened to her talk passionately about the 5000 women Karité Delapointe help in the countryside of Burkina Faso. When I asked her what was her best memory upon meeting these women in person Lévesque-Lapointe responded: ‘ their smile‘ . That being said it was easy to understand her conviction.  “But why aren’t more companies fair-trade“? I wondered. The answer she gave me is quite startling: because it entails organisation on the African side. Even though The Center for International Studies and Cooperation (in Canada) is there to help put everything in place, fair-trade is still a very small part of our economy. Why? Because companies don’t care enough to be slightly inconvenienced. Not to mention that there is barely any economic impact on a company for it to be fair-trade although it means the world to West African women. Without fair-trade once again Africa gets the raw end of the deal. It is without saying that Karité Delapointe pays about 3 times the going rate for shea butter but when you think of the ‘regular‘ rate it is so ridiculously low that it’s no wonder that some families remain poor and hopeless.

Shea butter often called the ‘green gold’ of Western Africa where it grows is their only solution against scarcity. The harvest and transformation of the shea nut has traditionally fallen on the shoulders of the West African women solely due to the false belief that men in contact with shea brings them a lifetime of misfortune. While men harvest crops in the fields women are responsible for the hardest and most lucrative labour, the harvest and transformation of the shea nut into shea butter. This conversion was traditionally done by hand but graced by the economic spinoffs of fair-trade, has permitted these women to purchase industrial equipment in order to lessen this burden. The best advantage I believe remains in their reclaimed dignity and power in the face of the adversities of living their lives in Third World conditions.

Fair trade not only gave these women the freedom to work when they wish, a job that pays them directly through the organisation of a co-operative, but also the opportunity of educating themselves and their children, and the institution of nurseries to take care of their children while they work. Basic women’s rights and well, natural rights and freedoms that we modern-day women take for granted since we have earned them eons ago.

Having made my plea I urge all the women (and men!) that read this article to please hold these women close to your hearts because you too can make a difference. Buying fair-trade is much more powerful then donating money to charities since it can be traced right back to the worker. The evidence is there and so is your choice. As Lévesque-Lapointe said: ‘If everyone had a pot of our balm in their house, imagine what kind of an impact that would have on the living conditions of these women of West Africa.’

Karité Delapointe which is the only Fairtrade Certified shea butter importer in Canada, offers 3 products which mostly contain pure and organic shea butter: a balm which hydrates and regenerates the skin, a conditioning lip balm and a luxurious soap, all offered in 3 fragrances: Douceur, Fruity and Freshness  or in unscented. They are also working with incorporating fair-trade cacao in a new line of Orange-Cacao products which will be available soon. You can visit their site to place an order. They also sell in bulk! So whether it’s to soothe your chapped hands this winter or to buy fair-trade shea butter for your own company don’t forget the ones who are at the forefront and are paving the way for other products to become fair-trade. Do the right thing. Buy fair-trade and think of this:  you are also putting a smile on a West African woman’s face…priceless isn’t it



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