I don’t know about you, but I use soap about a million times a day. Hands, face, body—they all get lathered up a lot. But when was the last time you thought about the soap you’re using? I admit that until a few weeks ago, I hadn’t given it much thought.
And then I tripped on Zekhara Naturals soap.
The first time I used it, it felt different than the stuff I’d used before. Good different. The reason: Zekhara Naturals doesn’t have detergents or synthetic foaming agents that can irritate skin. It does have all-natural ingredients (like cleansers made from coconut oil—who knew?!) and yummy scents that come from essential oils rather than fake perfumes.
So you get it, right? This soap is seriously awesome. It works great, it smells great, and it feels great. And that’s not even the best part. This soap actually helps lift some of the world’s poorest people out of poverty. Let that sink in a minute: soap = hope.
Zekhara Naturals is made by girls and women as part of the Pardada Pardadi Educational Society (PPES), a school for girls in a remote area of northern India. The organization was founded in 2000 by Virendra (Sam) Singh, a retired head of DuPont South Asia. A native of the area who had found financial success in the corporate world, Singh returned home in order to help find solutions for the unbelievable poverty there.
“He went back to India, did a lot of research, and decided educating a girl would move into educating a family,” according to his daughter, Renu Singh. “So that’s what he decided to do.”
It turns out that rural girls are the most vulnerable members of Indian society. Because they’re typically not provided with an education, they’re at the mercy of fathers, husbands, and other family members their entire lives. The result, often, is oppression and abuse.
With PPES, Sam Singh intends to change that. Even though many families live in destitution, they were hesitant to allow their daughters to attend the new school. It helped that PPES offered three meals a day, uniforms, and a safe haven—plus a job upon graduation. “Now when (the families have) seen the results, seen how far our girls have come, we have a long list of girls waiting to get in,” says Renu Singh.
In addition to life-changing education and job skills, PPES offers medical care through a school nurse, volunteer international doctors, and tele-medicine. PPES is, in fact, the only school in the region that provides health services for students. They also teach basic hygiene like handwashing and tooth brushing, which help keep the girls healthy and in school.
PPES recently completed a new building where women in the village create handcrafted goods. Then, in partnership with companies like Sitara, those artisan products (such as Zekhara Naturals), are made available to consumers. And while there’s nothing wrong with being an artisan crafter, Renu Singh hopes her father’s school is also educating India’s future doctors and teachers.
So what can we do to help? The easiest thing is to buy, use, and share Zekhara Naturals soap. We sell them for $6 a bar (or $5 each when you buy the four-bar collection). That’s on the low end of what you’ll pay for natural bar soap—and that’s not even taking into account the fair-trade, lifting-girls-out-of-poverty benefit. And that’s a pretty huge benefit if you ask me.