Olive Oil Soap Creating Opportunities for Refugees

Sitti Social Enterprise

1. No Poverty 5. Gender Equality 8. Decent Work and Economic Growth 10. Reduced Inequalities

Overview

Sitti Social Enterprise (“Sitti”) is a lifestyle brand focused on educating, employing, and empowering refugees and individuals from displaced communities. Sitti’s innovation began with the sale of hand crafted, cold pressed olive oil soap. Noora Sharrab and Jacqueline Sofia, the founders of Sitti, were working with female refugees in Jordan’s Jerash Refugee Camp when the idea of Sitti Social Enterprise was born. The female refugees had been crafting the olive oil soap, but the soap only stayed within the community. Noora and Jacqueline were presented with the unique opportunity to sell the soap, creating a socially conscious lifestyle brand that supports the women in the refugee camp through job creation. Long-term employment has provided many benefits to the refugee community in Jordan. The refugee women can sustain their families economically while exploring other educational opportunities. Sitti is a true testament to the resiliency of these female refugees. Today, Sitti’s produces over ten lifestyle products, but their greatest accomplishment is their mission to provide long-term employment to the members of the refugee community.

Authors

Kerlin Morales

Kerlin Morales

Sean Mottola

Sean Mottola

Si Li

Si Li

RIchard Locke

RIchard Locke

School

St. John's University

St. John's University

Professor

Charles Wankel

Charles Wankel

Innovation

The ability to convert product sales into economic support for the refugee community of the Jerash Refugee Camp is Sitti’s true innovation. Sitti sells various lifestyle products such as olive oil soap, loofahs, and jewelry that are beautifully crafted by the women in the Jerash Camp. Since Sitti is committed to long-term employment, the women receive a fair and equitable wage. This opportunity for long-term employment has restored hope within the refugee community. Thanks to Sitti’s innovation, the women of Jerash and their families have become more financially secure. When a consumer purchases a product from Sitti, they are directly supporting the refugee families of the Jerash Camp.

Sitti’s innovation goes beyond economic support, however. Sitti has empowered the women in the refugee camp to pursue educational and professional development through their beneficiary partners and programs. For example, Hopes for Women in Education. This non-profit organization provides academic scholarships and out-of-school support to women and girls in refugee and displaced communities throughout Jordan. The Hopes Library Project provides access to educational resources for the women and girls in the refugee camp. Another program is Banaat Connect which helps women and girls in the camp learn English and different cultures through online language-exchange sessions with female Arabic language students in the U.S., Canada, & Europe. Additionally, they have The Narrative Projects that lets the voices of the women and girls be heard by using documentary strategies, including participatory media, to illuminate the unseen, unheard and unknown stories of the refugee experience in the MENA region and North America. Finally, to support the community and refugees with disabilities in the camp, they have a program called The Jerash Camp Community-Based Rehabilitation Centre (CBRC). This center supports more than 300 women, men and children with hearing, speech, mental and physical disabilities by providing carpentry skills training, physiotherapy, speech therapy and specialized tutoring. With all these partners and programs, Sitti continues to support the mission of empowering the refugees and promoting sustainability.

Olive Oil Soap Creating Opportunities for Refugees

Inspiration

The inspiration behind Sitti Social Enterprise came about in 2014 when two women, Noora Sharrab and Jacqueline Sofia, founded this organization and began working with a motivated group of women in Jordan’s Jerash “Gaza” Refugee Camp to build the foundation for a social enterprise that would educate, employ, and empower. Noora’s ancestral family is from Gaza and Jacqueline was a Fulbright fellow in Jordan. Both have strong ties to the camp and wanted to help the refugees.

Sitti was inspired by the refugee women’s culture of making traditional handmade olive oil soap from recipes that were handed down from previous generations and other soap related products. All soap products are handmade by the refugee women and all soap dishes are handcrafted by refugees with disabilities who have graduated from the Jerash Camp Community-Based Rehabilitation Centre (CBRC) training program. The soap recipes were passed down from their families and this allows them to preserve the family soap recipes. This also allows them to carry on the culture and expand their culture to other parts of the world. A big focus for the company is sustainably. That includes suitability in their mission of empowering refugee girls and women in the camp, their community, way of life, products, and shipping materials.

Today, Sitti Social Enterprise maintains its commitment to providing fair wage employment to its growing staff of both women and men, as well as providing financial and in-kind support to several beneficiary programs that contribute towards the enterprise’s social mission. The Sitti product line, which began with a signature square bar of handmade, cold-pressed olive oil soap, has since grown to a line of more than ten popular lifestyle products, including curated products through partnerships with other ethical brand names. Sitti Social Enterprise has evolved into a global brand that can be found in the shops of retailers and distributors across the Middle East and North America.

Overall impact

Long-term employment has the ability to change lives. Since 2014, Sitti Social Enterprise has created vital, long-term job opportunities for communities in need. The team members of Sitti are females living in a refugee camp located within Jerash, Jordan. Providing these women with fair wages in return for their work, gives them an ability to support themselves and their families. One team member of the company has a husband who is affected by chronic illness. Through her employment with Sitti, she was able to pay off the loans they took to pay for his treatment. Now her and her family can live off her job with Sitti, debt-free. Another Sitti team member has eight children, which can be very costly, even for families in the United States. Her job through Sitti generates enough income for her to care for her children as the sole breadwinner of her family. There are several other families within the same refugee camp that depend on Sitti employment to pay for necessary amenities, food, and water. Long-term employment has reduced stress and anxiety for the refugee women and their families, which has also led to stronger mental health of the individuals within the community.

Sitti has become a valuable partner in the community of the Jerash refugee camp and supporting communities is especially crucial during today's environment. The entire globe has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic; these refugee camps included. A crisis such as this, can quickly lead to worse living conditions. As communities struggle with this illness and the impact of quarantine measures, Sitti has worked even harder to maintain their mission. The founders created messaging groups through WhatsApp to open lines of communication with their team members to stay in contact and ensure their safety. Retaining all team members was a priority, Sitti created a dedicated space for soap making to ensure they could still operate under sanitary, socially distant conditions. Through relationships with other nonprofits in the area, they have raised over $14,000 for food, water, and other essential supplies. The founders of Sitti provided critical aid to this community during a time when it was most vulnerable.

Business benefit

Sitti Social Enterprise is a sustainable solution for poverty within refugee communities. Non-profit organizations must rely on donations from supporters and fundraising events. Sitti is self- reliant on sales of their quality products. In return, this allows Sitti to directly control their organizational growth. As they increase their product offerings and sales figures, they can offer more employment opportunities. If orders rise based on increased demand for their products, additional team members will be needed from the refugee camp of Jerash or even other refugee camps. In turn these employment opportunities will create more independence and purchasing power for their team members. Ultimately this will benefit the local economy, which can develop alongside the growth of Sitti. The founders of Sitti are constantly looking to grow their mission. One goal is to have a factory supported by one hundred of their team members. One hundred additional long-term job opportunities could drastically improve the economy within the Jerash Refugee Camp.

Social and environmental benefit

Sitti’s tagline is “Educate, Employ, and Empower” and everything they do within their company revolves back to this idea. They are an organization that believes in providing REAL opportunities of advancement for refugee women in Jordan.

Through Education: Sitti works closely with Hopes for Women in Education. Hope for Women in Education is a non-profit organization geared towards providing scholarships to refugees and displaced women within Jordan. Any woman who receives the scholarship gets any possible fees associated with learning completely paid for, including transportation. Sitti is currently selling a Sitti x Millie Limited Edition Box, where proceeds will be going towards a higher education scholarship for a girl in Jerash Refugee Camp. Besides working towards providing scholarships, Sitti has established a center revolving around the notion of community and growth. Women do not just work and go home. The center provides periodically different training and development workshops.

Through Employment: Noora Sharrab, a co-founder, states that the organization started in hopes of creating employment opportunities for refugee women and helping them attain long term financial sustainability. The company pays their staff of 14 women and men FAIR wages. It is important to note that many artisans are seen as the sole breadwinners in their family. Hence, by giving a fair and stable income to their staff, they are in return helping families as well.

In times of COVID-19, their community centered work has become more difficult. Around the world, COVID-19 has affected employment and the economy. This did not stop Sitti from completing their mission of providing a support network for refugees. Sitti started a campaign to raise money to provide cleaning supplies, food, and water to refugee families. The amount of money raised helped thousands of families and had provided them resources for several months!

Through Empowerment: The co-founder of Sitti Social Enterprises is Jacqueline Sofia, who is an educator and producer of documentary media. She has launched the “Narrative Projects” which aims at amplifying the forgotten voices of refugees in the MENA region and North America. It provides a platform that educators, researchers, and the public can use to better understand the narrative of refugees. Sitti Social Enterprise also collaborates with the Jersah Camp Community-Based Rehabilitation Center (CBRC). This center provides resources to over 300 individuals with physical, mental, speech, and hearing disabilities. They are also responsible for bringing awareness of others with disabilities around the camp. Sitti’s very own dish soaps are all handcrafted by Hassan, a graduate from CBRC. Each dish soap purchased through Sitti directly goes back into the CBRC and helps another individual with a disability realize anything is possible!

Interview

Noora Sharrab, Co-founder and CEO

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Sitti Social Enterprise

Sitti Social Enterprise

Ontario, CA

Business Website: https://sittisoap.com

Year Founded: 2014

Number of Employees: 11 to 50

Sitti Social Enterprise is much more than a soap company. Its products are made from natural resources by displaced refugees in Jordan. All proceeds go back into the Gaza camp to educate, employ, and empower all individuals there.