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Photography Aliya Mirza

Women for Refugee Women wants your unused beauty products this Christmas


TextAlice Gibbs

The charity’s director Natasha Walter shares the thinking behind its appeal for beauty products, which will be used as gifts at their Christmas party for women who have fled violence

As Christmas comes around, many of us will be thinking of gifting our favourite beauty products to loved ones. But Women for Refugee Women is working to widen our beauty giving this season by appealing for donations of unwanted or unused beauty products for refugee women. The organisation supports women who are seeking refuge from persecution to rebuild their lives and communicate their own stories.

While the beauty industry has repeatedly been under fire in recent years for its contribution to waste and lack of sustainability, there is a vast gap between this and the women struggling to afford basic toiletries. Women for Refugee Women saw an opportunity to bridge this gap. “It’s an industry that generates so much surplus,” says director Natasha Walter. “Like many women, I am sometimes given beauty stuff that I just don’t use. I thought it would be good for women in need to be able to benefit from this and properly enjoy what the rest of us take for granted.

“Every year we hold a Christmas party for over 100 refugee women. These are women who have fled violence in their home countries and, even when they get to the UK, they are living insecure lives in extreme poverty,” Walter explains. “It’s a real stretch for them to even be able to afford the basics like soap and sanitary towels.” The party is an opportunity for these women, who are often ground down by their situation, to have a nice time – chatting with friends, sharing food, dancing and singing. The cherry on the cake is the carefully created gift bags containing beauty products that they can take home and enjoy. 

Women for Refugee Women begins accepting donations in November, in time for their Christmas party in December, as lack of storage space makes taking them all year round difficult. The best products to donate include high-quality perfumes, and face and body moisturisers. “Refugee women are like all of us – we like putting good quality ingredients on our skin that smell fine,” says Walters. She also notes that when thinking about donating, it’s worth considering products that everyone can use. “For example, please don’t send us something like a foundation for fair skin as we won’t have many takers!”

“Every year we hold a Christmas party for over 100 refugee women. These are women who have fled violence in their home countries and, even when they get to the UK, they are living insecure lives in extreme poverty. It’s a real stretch for them to even be able to afford the basics like soap and sanitary towels” 

Pledging to always put anything sent to good use, the organisation also notes that if you don’t have unused products to send – don’t go out and buy anything specially. Instead, why not donate to the charity online. “We run a hardship fund here so that all year round, refugee women who are in urgent need can get support,” says Walter. “Recently we’ve helped a homeless woman buy sanitary towels and soap, we’ve given a woman some cash to top up her phone so she can call her family back home, and we’ve bought a train ticket for a woman so that she can go to Liverpool for her asylum interview.” 

The impact of beauty products in this situation must, of course, be put into context. “I’m not going to overstate the difference that they make – what the women we work with really want is safety and dignity all year round,” says Walter, “but there is nothing wrong with having a bit of enjoyment even in hard times.”

For more information about Women for Refugee Women, how to send unwanted products or a donation, visit their website.

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