“Daddy has been in an accident.” These were the words I woke up to after spending the night looking for my father. What followed was thirty-seven harrowing days that ended with us saying bye to our daddy, our papa, our everything. How do you go on when you have lost your everything?
There was only one way: To go on remembering the daddy that he was and not let his legacy die. It started with Shea butter. Shea butter has been the butter of choice in our family for as long as I can remember. When our dad first introduced it to us, he do so by saying: “I have found you something that’ll make you glow”.
I was not convinced but to my immense surprise, it easily absorbed into my skin and after a few days of tinkling with it to placate daddy, I saw a difference in my skin. This butter was the real deal! It became the stable at home with daddy making sure his girls were glowing throughout the years.
But what was this exactly? Shea butter, to be exact the Nilotica Shea Butter is native to South Sudan and Northern Uganda. It contains higher therapeutic and conditioning properties than its cousin species Paradoxa sourced from West Africa. It is prized for its intensive moisture, nutty scent and creamy texture which makes it easier to absorb into the skin or hair.
Now do you understand where the glow comes from? Well, it did not just stop there. Soon enough we were all playing scientist, experimenting with our favourite lotions and scents to get the right consistency and scent. We decided then to create shea products for our family and friends, to celebrate our daddy, and to explore the journey with this new discovery for us.
This required purchasing more shea butter and it is how we got introduced to Leonara Abalo Okello. This lady is the shea butter lady extraordinaire! Leonara has been in the Shea butter business since 1997.
"The idea came up during the time of the Lord Resistance Army Insurgency. With so much insecurity and loss of lives, a couple of ladies and myself came together to help our families."
Leonara started the business with no clue about quality control or agro-processing. "We just did it the way we had been taught by our mothers." However, when the insurgency came to an end, Leonara was fortunate enough to be trained on shea agro-processing in Otuke, Northern Uganda.
"We learnt the right processes that would ensure the quality of our shea products."
Shea has afforded Leonara the opportunity to make a difference in her family and community. Shea butter is not just a product that cares for our skin. It is also a product impacting many communities in Uganda, she says.
We fight together, we stay together and we build together
The work is a partnership, as different players are required at different stages. Ritah of Black Beauty Ritah, is a reseller that we work with.
Ritah's journey with Shea Butter started as a young girl who was very insecure growing up. "I am short and dark skinned so my friends used to call me Black Beauty." She had a dream to start her own business ones day, pursued a Business administration qualificaton at Makerere University. Like myself and my sisters, Ritah's father played a key role in her journey into beauty. That is the power of fathers in the lives of their children. Ritah’s dad helped her start her business Black Beauty, a beauty boutique, and it was our dad that helped us start FO You as a family.
Life is about legacy. It is about honouring our dad who wanted his girls to glow and use products that are right in their land. It is also about honouring people just like Ritah who are stopping at nothing to make their dreams come true. Sometimes, just sometimes when I wear my shea butter, I remember my dad with fondness.
COVID-19 has shown us the frailty of life where one moment your loved person is here and the next they are no longer with you. We go on remembering the love and legacy of those who have left us. We fight together, we stay together and we build together. COVID-19 has shown Ubuntu to us clearly-“We are because of who we all are.”