Black History Month Spotlight on Nguzo Ogbodo of Yara Shea Beauty
Growing up in Nigeria, Nguzo Ogbodo witnessed the difficulties many adolescent girls faced during puberty, including sexual harassment, abuse, early marriage, unintended pregnancy, and school absences. These challenges were exacerbated by a lack of knowledge and resources for menstrual health and sexual and reproductive health. To address this, Nguzo founded Hope and Dreams Initiative in 2011, which focuses on menstrual health management and education on sexual and reproductive health and rights.
To support her initiative, Nguzo created Yara Shea Beauty, a socially responsible brand offering high-quality, naturally inspired skincare and body care products. The products are crafted using pure, unrefined shea butter sourced from women in Ghana, following Fair Trade and Organic standards. Every Yara Shea Beauty product is pure, fresh, and authentic, made in the traditional way, without chemicals, and imported to Nguzo’s hometown in the Bronx.
Proceeds from Yara Shea Beauty go towards providing young girls with sanitary pads and supporting their educational journey. Nguzo believes that business can be a force for good and is committed to creating a positive impact in the world. To grow her business, Nguzo turned to United Way New York City's Together We Thrive, a program designed to support Black-owned businesses in the wake of Covid-19. The organization is helping Nguzo obtain Minority Business Enterprise certification and providing her with the resources she needs to thrive.
Beautyologie is proud to offer Yara Shea Beauty and recently chatted with Nguzo about her journey.
Briefly discuss your upbringing and family life.
I grew up and could easily that I lived a good chunk of my life in Lagos, Nigeria, and after High school, I was sent to London with my other siblings to study. In 2002 I left London and currently living in New York with my three beautiful children, 18, 16, and 13. As you can imagine, it’s an active and busy household!
How did you go about creating your nonprofit?
Growing up in Nigeria, I knew that for many adolescent girls, puberty is a vulnerable time when they face sexual harassment, abuse, early marriage, unintended pregnancy, and absences from school which threaten their health and well-being. The challenges are amplified when girls lack the knowledge and tools they need to navigate puberty safely and with dignity. I saw myself in the eyes of these girls and thought “ I could have been one of them” I saw that many girls and women who were denied an education could not afford sanitary pads—or had a choice between buying these products or food for the family. In response to these challenges, in 2011 I founded Hope and Dreams Initiative, dedicated to menstrual health management, sexual and reproductive health,
and rights education.
What challenges did you come up against?
The challenges I have come up against include creating awareness of what the organization is doing and finding funding.
How did you develop the idea to create Yara Shea Beauty to support your nonprofit?
With these challenges weighing on my heart, I was inspired to create the Yara Shea Beauty Brand during the Pandemic. The brand seeks to make a positive difference in the world by offering high-quality, naturally inspired skincare and body care products produced ethically and sustainably. The brand is committed to generating a positive economic, social, and environmental impact. We are joining a growing number of businesses committed to making positive changes in business and society by ending period poverty, so that menstruating young girls and women can stay in school and work during their period cycle. This makes a significant difference in their life for the duration of their elementary and secondary school education and their families. We aim to reduce inequality, lower poverty levels, build a strong community, and leave these young women with dignity and purpose.
Briefly explain the process of doing this. How did you source your ingredients?
Our main ingredient is Shea butter, Shea butter is known in Africa as “ Women’s Gold” because the income women make from processing shea nuts and butter creates a pathway of economic progress for them and their community. Our Shea Butter is sourced directly from women-run cooperatives to create economic access through trade. Every Shea fruit that falls from the shea tree is handpicked by an African woman and has been used for centuries for food, healing, and beauty.
What has the impact of Yara Shea been on your nonprofit so far?
Knowing that through Yara Shea Beauty, we are empowering women through beauty. We are inspired by the beauty of a community, the shared experiences of women, girls, and mothers, and their shared need to be empowered, independent, and their family providers. We drive joy knowing that we are using business to fight poverty and seeing that proceeds are being used to feed, clothe, educate, and most importantly provide sanitary products to young girls during their menstrual cycle thereby they are not missing school anymore, according to UN reports I million girls misses school every single day for not having access to sanitary pads and out girls are not part of that statistics due to Yara shea Beauty ‘We are using African resources in solving African problems.
How many girls have you been able to help since starting the nonprofit?
We have impacted over 100,000 girls in school through our End Period Poverty campaign, working with 23 public schools in 23 communities, a community WASH LIbrary/Safe Space where victims of abuse come to for counseling and safety, and 9 WASH Reading rooms in 9 schools.
What are your plans for 2023?
Our biggest plan for 2023 is to create a coding space for girls because tech needs girls and girls need tech, we want to plant 10 sanitary dispensers in 10 schools and 5 WASH Reading rooms.