There’s more to Tumwater-based Alaffia than just skin care products. Owner and founder Olowo-n'djo Tchala says it's a “social movement.”
In addition to providing jobs and boosting the economy in the West Africa nation of Togo, Tchala’s hometown, the company is responsible for several “empowerment projects” there. The end goal of the company isn’t to make a profit, but rather to help people and particularly women.
To raise awareness about the projects happening in Africa, Alaffia hosted the “Ladies of Togo” tour at Whole Foods in University Place, where business representatives could speak to the good that is happening overseas. Dressed in traditional Togo garb, three women addressed the small crowd of customers and city officials gathered before them: Director of Community Support Abide Awesso, Manager of Traditional Oil Extraction Mawule Houmey and Manager of the Togo Artisan Center Ahoumondom Bamassi.
Tchala said the empowerment projects are broken down into three sections: education, the environment and health.
For example, education initiatives have been responsible for distributing 7,100 bicycles, building 1,855 school benches, providing school supplies to 23,700 students and constructing 10 schools.
Moreover, Alaffia product sales have funded the planting of 53,125 trees to help reduce erosion and improve old security for families.
The company’s maternal health initiatives were especially near and dear to the hearts of the Togo women at Whole Foods. Awesso is charged with educating women and communities about the dangers of female genital mutilation, which alter and cause injury to female genital organs. The act can cause severe bleeding, infections, life-threatening complications in childbirth and increased risk of newborn deaths.
“It is important to pay for a woman when she can’t afford pregnancy. The consequences of female circumcision are so severe that many women will die at birth. (We need to) try to prevent it from happening, instead of paying for it (later in life),” Awesso said.
The Ladies of Togo Tour has several more stops planned, including San Diego, Atlanta, Brooklyn, New York City and Minneapolis.