Cream of The Crop

Aram Weer natural shea butter

Estella Malek is a communications graduate who fell in love with shea butter after being introduced to the product by a Nigerian friend while studying in Malaysia. Ghanaian brand Hamamat Beauty advises that “you should not put anything on your skin that you could not put in your mouth”. Estella came to realize that shea butter was not only available in West Africa but also a product that can be produced in South Sudan. She returned home and decided to take the entrepreneurial leap and start Aram Weer natural whipped shea butter.

Shea butter is a body lotion cream that is popular in west Africa and has started to be embraced by the cosmetic industry world-wide for its healing properties and health benefits. We spoke to Aram Weer’s founder and owner to discuss her journey in the shea butter industry.

Estella realized that shea nuts (locally known as rak) were actually used in Mula Combo (South Sudan’s national dish) but just processed in a different way. She started to source shea nuts from the Lake State region (Aram Weer) where the raw material is in abundance and transported them to Juba to be processed.

The process starts with the raw nuts being sorted, as some nuts that are not of top quality can affect the final product in a negative way. Once the top quality nuts are selected they are dried, washed and stored ready for roasting. Roasting the nuts is important to allow the nuts to produce the oil that will be extracted in the next stage. 

The roasted nuts are firstly pounded by hand before being ground in the centuries old traditional way on a stone grinder. The pounded paste is then boiled in hot water until the required oil floats to the top and the unwanted residue sinks to the bottom.

The shea oil is skimmed off the top and kept in a cool place to solidify. Once the solidification has taken place the final stage of whipping the cream is done with an electric whipping machine similar to a kitchen utensil that is used to whip eggs. This process is necessary because in hot climates such as South Sudan the butter melts and when it re-solidifies it becomes grainy and harder to apply. The whipping removes this issue and ensures that the creamy product always keeps it silky smooth texture and is easy to use.

The raw unrefined shea butter has no additives, perfume or preservatives and this means that no healing qualities are lost in the production or packaging of this product.  The shea butter is used as a natural anti-inflammatory, can reduce stretch marks, and it is dermatologically approved and used by people with eczema as well as other skin conditions.

Aram Weer gets their packaging from neighboring countries in the region and packages the product by hand in Juba. The packaging is very distinct with the South Sudan flag clearly visible as shea from the country is known to be of the highest quality.

Aram Weer is one of many South Sudanese companies that are starting to export this valuable product regionally and globally. We expect to see growth in the coming years and believe that these types of artisanal and cottage industries will help entrepreneurs to build businesses and create jobs in the private sector.

by Deng Kon

Monica Yom : Gender Roles

in the midst of Juba electrification an inspiring story emerged of positive gender roles and employment opportunities. Electrical engineer Monica Yom Aleer, an employee of Portal Limited has been at the forefront of connecting at least five South Sudanese homes to power since early December, 2019. The 26-year-old graduated in Electrical Engineering from Nairobi in 2015

We had a chance to catch up with Monica during a work day in the field connecting power in Munuki – Sug Libya where she expressed the difficulties and obstacles she faced as she pursued her degree and eventual career. “My family, especially my brother, did not support my career of choice. They said it is a male field. It’s true, it is male dominant but a woman can do it too. I was determined to finish my degree and I did. My brother and my family are proud of me after seeing my achievements and the importance of my work to the community and its development.”

As the only female Electrician of Portal Limited for the past year, Monica is well known amongst her colleagues who did not hold back in expressing their pride of her accomplishments. As well as encouraging her to inspire other young ladies to join the electrical engineering field.

When asked about her journey and future plans, she adds “Electricity is a necessity not a luxury and every South Sudanese deserves to have it. I will remain with Portal Limited for as long as the project is ongoing, I will also remain on my career path until I have connected as many people as I can to electricity if not all. I have dreams of seeing more females than myself on electricity poles, fixing generators, driving tractors or any other male dominant fields. It is not hard, we just lack the opportunity to even try but determination is key”.

The gender employment gap is evidently large in South Sudan. In terms of how many women are employed compared to men and also jobs or careers available for men compared to women. Monica’s journey, will to learn and build, is what helped her excel in the electrical industry and contribute to its development. Creating jobs is one solution breaching the gender employment gap but existing jobs / careers becoming available for both genders might be key to resolving the issue of inequality in the future.

By Eva Lopa