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We talk to Tash Sefton after a life-changing trip to Ghana with The Body Shop

Words by Alyce Greer

About being a conscious consumer.

Influencer, fashion consultant, mum and all ’round Queen of Style, Tash Sefton, is fresh off the plane from a life-changing trip to Ghana. She travelled there to learn about the very special women of the Tungteiya village, who have been handmaking the iconic Body Shop shea butter for 25 years (I KNOW).

We caught up with Tash so she could debrief us on her visit, explain why we should all go and buy some of this magical shea butter, and provide us with some insider beauty hacks. Natch.

You’ve just returned from an incredible trip to Ghana with The Body Shop. What was that experience like?

It was such an incredible, life-changing experience visiting this part of the world. When I was initially approached to visit Ghana, I was very nervous and thought it would be unsafe to go there. In fact, it was just the opposite! An extremely interesting country with incredible history, and beautiful people filled with so much spirit… not to mention the women are stunning and very very stylish – you should see their fashion sense!

I was there to learn the entire process of how The Body Shop works with Community Trade in marginalised communities. In this case, the shea nut is from a native tree only found in Western Africa. Shea butter is the only product the villages have been using for centuries as an intensely enriching hair and body moisturiser. This part of the world is incredibly dry, hot and remote, yet the women’s skin and hair are beautiful. Now, shea butter is being shared with the rest of the world because The Body Shop began Community Trade over 25 years ago.

Why was this experience important to you, and something you were keen to get involved with?

I have been working towards many changes for over 12 months now. I just felt a shift needed to happen for myself personally and in my business, which is why I created Where Did Your Style Go. The concept is about learning how to dress, rather than shopping to dress. I write articles about this and the reaction has been incredible.

I needed to become a conscious consumer and educator in a world that’s filled with a lot of noise and waste that I feel needs to slow down. I also began working closely with animal conservation which although is different to sustainability, goes hand in hand.

The women of the Tungteiya village handcraft 390 tons of shea butter for The Body Shop every year (!!). What were your visits like? Any amazing stories to share?

Yes! When we asked the women (with a translator) what they thought beauty was, the question was lost in translation. They didn’t understand why I was asking this question, as it was almost a foreign concept. These communities have simple needs and wants. The women don’t value beauty as being pretty or more attractive than someone else. Their beauty comes from the inside and what they put out for their family and the village they live in.

However, they LOVE dressing up. It was so fascinating to watch how they explained the joy of buying fabric to make a new outfit. They wear intensely coloured prints from head-to-toe and it’s just magical. They dance and they sing. It is a very special place.

A trip like this surely puts things into perspective. What are some of the biggest life lessons you’ve come home with?

Mainly that life goes on no matter where you live, what you have and what you don’t have. Family is so important to these women and it’s the reason they make sacrifices. The villages are all about community and simple pleasures mean a lot. Their spirit and smiles were intoxicating and I think they were just as fascinated about us as we were about them.

For example, I was wearing a shell necklace, and one of the women kept looking at it. At one point, she came up to hold the shell and I immediately took it off and put it around her neck. The joy in her eyes was beautiful. We didn’t need to communicate with words to have a special moment of respect and love. Later, the translators told me that this would be a treasured piece she would wear forever. I realised she had never seen a shell before; this was so special and something I take for granted.

The Body Shop has been partnering with the Tungteiya Women’s Association since 1994. What sort of positive impact has this had on the village?

The women in these regions didn’t have a voice, living in a male-dominated society where women were ‘seen and not heard’. Sourcing shea is ‘women’s business’ only. They are allowed, culturally, to collect the nuts and make it into butter. It is the sole income for women in the village, and now they earn even more than the men (oh yeah!).

The Body Shop trade directly with these women, bringing in cash flow to help their families. In addition to this, the money from the shea butter allows these communities to allocate money to help build schools and healthcare facilities as well as source safe drinking water. This butter is now referred to as ‘women’s gold’ – not only is it a historic natural beauty treatment, it has changed women’s social standing.

Trade from The Body Shop affects 40,000 people in 11 villages. It has built seven schools for 1,200 students, sourced safe drinking water, built healthcare facilities and commissioned the replanting of 18,000 trees. That’s pretty impressive! I now think of all of this each night when I apply shea butter on my body and think ‘hell yeah!’. It really works!

You’re very passionate about sustainable beauty. Where does this passion come from, and how does this influence your beauty ‘philosophy’ day-to-day?

We just need to talk more about sustainable beauty and the impact it has in our world, we need to buy/support products and brands that fit this ethos. We need to change the conversation and really think about what being ‘beautiful’ is. I didn’t fully understand what fair trade was until I saw what it can do for marginalised communities.

Shea butter has been used for centuries in Ghana. Post-trip, how has shea butter joined your beauty regime? Got any beauty tips or hacks for us?

I love the 100% Natural Shea Butter, which is a new product to The Body Shop’s range. It’s such a simple product but it’s multi-purpose, as you can use on your body, face, lips and even in your hair. I have been lucky enough to get an early sample and have been using it on my body. It is so hydrating and soothing. I also use it on the tips of my hair as a hair moisturiser.  It also helps with frizz in humidity!

Why do you believe communities like the Tungteiya Women’s Association are so crucial to the beauty industry today?

Now, I really can see what buying a product in Western society can do to a community on the other side of the world. In addition, fairtrade is not just about the end product – it’s about the journey and the impact to people’s lives.

thebodyshop.com

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