By Miracle Nwankwo
In commemoration of the International Women’s Day we would like to appraise the efforts of women philanthropist and humanitarians in war-torn areas and refugee camps all over the world, working towards making life worth a living for most refugee women.
As such, we bring you the story of the inspirational activities of two women in Jerash Refugee camp in Jordan.
In a world where women are compelled to carry the burden of providing for their families in refugee camps as a result of war, Noora Sharrab and Jacqueline Sofia founded a women-led social enterprise, Sitti Soap – to empower women in Jerash Refugee camp.
It all began when Noora started working in a refugee camp and she founded an NGO called Hopes for Women in Education. Through her NGO she got connected with many other refugee camps, including Jerash, where Sitti is currently located. She soon met Jacqueline, who just arrived Jordan as a Fulbright Fellow and they immediately bonded. During the same period, the Italian Embassy had empowered a group of women with the skill of cold-pressed olive oil soap making. Of which most of the women were from the Jerash camp.
Having learnt the art of soap making, the women were disadvantaged in terms of lack of means to market the product or to make any money out of their newly acquired skill. Fortunately, they met Noora and expressed their concerns. It was on hearing about the situation that Sitti began to take form in the hearts of Noora and Jacqueline.
Noora and Jacqueline decided to partner and join forces to help these women achieve something with their lives. They knew these women needed to find a source of sustainable income to help their families.
When Sitti was conceived these two women began to work hard to make the idea a reality, not for their own gains or for the advertisement of the soap itself, but most importantly “to amplify the stories of these women whose desires are now geared towards finding purpose.
The soap making business whether produced from natural or chemical, handmade or machine-made is not new to the business world or the manufacturing industry. However, what is somewhat new is a bunch of refugee women making and selling handmade olive oil-based soap which is now a multi-national brand and can be found in various outlets across the Middle East and North America.
The zeal of these resilient refugee women, who, out of nothing, wanted to make something out of their lives ignited hunger in Noora and Jacquiline who are now spending the significant parts of their lives creating employment for refugee women.
Some of the women had never worked before and they did not have access to jobs outside of the refugee camp. So Noora and Jacquilie concluded that if they have to help these women achieve their dreams then it would require creating a conducive environment for them to work. So they found a place in the refugee camp and renovated it from start to finish.
They did not stop at that, they went further to organize a crowdfunding campaign and they were fortunate to gather enough fund that covered the salaries of three full-time workers for about a year. As result Sitti came to into existence.
According to Noora, ‘Sitti’ is an Arabic word which means ‘my grandmother’. The idea for the company stems from the traditions of how grandmothers used natural ingredients to make household materials with their hands.
Currently, Sitti product line has grown from a signature square bar of cold-pressed olive oil soap to a line of over 10 skincare and home good items. Sitti has also continued to provide fair wage employment to its all-female staff as well as creating several beneficiary programmes that contribute towards the company’s mission, throughout the past years.
In pursuit of Sustainable Development Goals, Sitti aims to support other areas of the Jerash economy.