Benjamin and I are on a teaching trip in Senegal as part of our non-profit, Lovin’ Soap Project. We are teaching a group of eight incredibly smart, loving and differently-abled women to make soap to sell in Senegal and in the larger world market. These women inspire me daily. One woman in a wheel chair throws herself out of it every day to get down on the ground to make soap. These women are able and determined to make this business work.
This project is a partnership between Lovin’ Soap Project and Deline’s Gift. Deline’s Gift is run by Karine Sar. Read about her story here. Karine provides micro-financing to women in the Casamance region of Senegal and acts as project manager on many different projects including charcoal production, coconut oil production and now… soap making. She provides support to the women as they create their businesses and helps to tell their stories to those all over the world.
Our differently-abled women have disabilities ranging from total loss of leg-use to hips that have been displaced and never healed. Four out of eight women told us that their disability was caused by either a flu shot or another vaccine shot (probably polio). The stories are so heartbreaking.
In their community if you are disabled you are pretty much thrown away. Some of them have families that abandoned them and some of them tell stories of falling in love with a man, having his child and then having his family tell them that they can’t marry because of the way they are.
Deline’s Gift and Lovin’ Soap Project are helping to change the way the community views them by helping them become business women and leaders of their community. They have an opportunity to completely change the way they and others like them are viewed in the community.
The Casamance is an agriculturally-rich area full of natural resources, many used for soap making. The women actually make their own coconut oil and are currently selling it in the community. A village 30 minutes away produces palm oil and palm kernel oil. Shea butter and sunflower are easy to find. Touloukouna oil is a local oil that is highly sought after and contains many benefits for the skin. Herbs such as moringa, peppermint, teas, cinnamon and hibiscus are plentiful and free for use.
Caustic soda was easy to find. We bought a big bag of 25 kgs for about $20.
One of the women, Awa Sire, had actually made soap before, using coconut oil and a different kind of caustic. She was pleased at what we taught and said the process was much better than what she had learned.
One of the highlights of the training was when they received the Bud soap cutter that Jo had won and donated to the group. All of our groups have a Bud cutter. He is generous to have donated one to every group that we have taught. We told the women about Bud and that he had cut off part of his finger. They immediately started praying and singing for him! (I hope you felt the good thoughts, Bud!)
These women are so deserving of a little help. They kept repeating that they couldn’t believe that we had come to teach them. They feel that nobody cares about them in the Casamance.
They are determined to make soap from the Casamance a global jewel. They will start by selling at fairs and shops in Dakar and then branch out.
If you are ever in Senegal and want to purchase soap or want to visit the women in the Casamance, please contact Deline’s Gift! Karine will be happy to make arrangements.
If you would like to support Lovin’ Soap Project, please sign up for a monthly donation at Soap Collaborative! Every month you will receive a digital magazine and your donation will go to help empower women all over the world through soapmaking!
Thank you to those who have made donations and especially to those who provide monthly support!
Amanda & Benjamin