To most Arabic speakers, the word ‘sitti’ means ‘grandmother’, but considering the work Sitti Soap brand is doing, we might just be adding another definition to the term.
The word is imperative to the brand as it embodies and symbolizes the love and wisdom that comes to mind when thinking of grandmothers. Not to mention, the brand’s founders, Noora Sharrab and Jaqueline Sofia, are offering the very same essence of motherly love and care, except instead of grandkids, their nurturing and wisdom is directed towards Palestinian refugees.
After the duo began working with women living in Jordan’s Jerash Refugee camp in 2014, they quickly decided to found their own company to help support them. It all started with a bar of soap, handmade by their all-female, all-refugee staff. Today, the brand stands as a fully-fledged company with a vast product range, varying from skincare to homeware.
And with their growth, their mission has grown even stronger. Stocked at retailers across the Middle East and North America, Sitti continues to employ refugees who still handmake every single bar of soap.
Olive oil lies at the heart of their company. After all, they’ve become known for their Nabulsi soap—a castile soap that dates back to the 14th century. It’s typically only made on Palestine’s West Bank, but with the help of the women of the Jerash refugee camp, Sitti has been able to take the product across the globe—an important move considering that only few factories remain standing in Palestine today.
Each bar takes 30 days to be made, and a story comes with every piece. Sharrab and Sofia have a mission in mind, not only to provide the displaced Palestinian women with employment, but to also bring awareness to their stories too.
The reality is, when a person is displaced, their stories are often forgotten. More often than not, displaced people are reduced to their refugee status, with their lives prior to acquiring that label often overlooked, if not entirely ignored. In the end, displaced women and men wind up debilitated by circumstances that were out of their control, often unable to find work despite whatever experience they carry with them from their native lands.
And if Sitti Soap’s drive to share the stories of each and every member of staff, the duo also run an educational and skill-development program as part of their company, all with the goal of bringing the many refugees who have been living in Jerash for decades a greater sense of independence.
Part of the proceeds from every purchase goes to serve their Hopes-Sitti Women’s Centre. Amna, a Palestinian refugee herself supervises their workshop and beneficiary programs, among which is Banaat Connect, a language exchange program in partnership with Hopes for Women in Education (a Canadian non-profit organization) to help Palestinian refugees learn English to better their prospects.
Currently, their product range includes their classic Sitti Soap bars, wooden soap dishes, reusable organic cotton tote bags, and white howlite and black lava stone bracelet known for its stress-reducing abilities.