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Aseela Women's Cooperative
496 Manger Street, 1st Floor, Bethlehem, West Bank, Palestine | Telefax: (+972) 02-276-4265 | wafa@aseela.org 

Products: Olive oil soap, towels and gift sets  
Beneficiaries: 16 women from Dheisheh refugee camp, Bethlehem

 

Aseela was established in the fall of 2004 in Bethlehem by a group women who came together to address income-generation needs of families in refugee camps and rural villages. Aseela is an innovative entrepreneurial project that aims to empower Palestinian women and to promote exquisitely Palestinian products overseas through a unique combination of grassroots economic initiatives in the West Bank and an international network of progressive organizations and consumers.

Aseela's vision is to produce top quality olive oil products that are distinctly Palestinian. The women wanted their products to reflect the local tradition that continues to thrive in their everyday customs - the abundant use of olive oil, flowers, spices and herbs in food, body care and medicine.

"People outside Palestine hear only about violence and poverty," says Wafa Khatib, a resident of Dheisheh refugee camp and co-founder of Aseela. "We wanted to show the world something beautiful from our country, by making great products from our excellent olive oil."

After more than a year of researching, collecting seed money and equipment, building the cooperative structure, and repeating trials and errors of the soap-making, Aseela began producing their first product - the Pure Olive Oil Soap - in the spring of 2006.

Although it is more costly than residual oil, commonly used by local soap-makers, Aseela insists on using only the eating- quality olive oil. The result is an extremely mild and moisturizing soap, loved especially by those with sensitive and dry skin. The soap is a new hit at Sunbula Craft Shop, and is exported to Japan and Europe through fair trade initiatives and women's organizations.