Help Girls to Fight Child Marriage in Zimbabwe

by The Advocacy Project
Help Girls to Fight Child Marriage in Zimbabwe
Help Girls to Fight Child Marriage in Zimbabwe
Help Girls to Fight Child Marriage in Zimbabwe
Help Girls to Fight Child Marriage in Zimbabwe
Help Girls to Fight Child Marriage in Zimbabwe
Help Girls to Fight Child Marriage in Zimbabwe
Help Girls to Fight Child Marriage in Zimbabwe
Help Girls to Fight Child Marriage in Zimbabwe
Help Girls to Fight Child Marriage in Zimbabwe
Help Girls to Fight Child Marriage in Zimbabwe
Help Girls to Fight Child Marriage in Zimbabwe
Help Girls to Fight Child Marriage in Zimbabwe
Help Girls to Fight Child Marriage in Zimbabwe
Help Girls to Fight Child Marriage in Zimbabwe
Clean Girl soap is ready for sale!
Clean Girl soap is ready for sale!

This report is being sent, with gratitude, to friends who have helped us to support girls in Zimbabwe through our partner in Harare, Women Advocacy Project (WAP).

You have donated to three appeals on GlobalGiving since 2018 which have raised a combined $6,231. This is of course fantastic. Even more fantastic is the fact that your donations have helped WAP to leverage well over $100,000 for the program and inspire innovation by girls in some of Africa’s toughest neighborhoods.

It started in 2018 when WAP took a stand against child marriage, which is widespread in Zimbabwe. We sent Alex, a student at Columbia University, to work with Constance, the founder of WAP. They came up with the idea of asking several girls to serve as “ambassadors” and organize clubs that would rally around girls at risk. We launched our first appeal on GlobalGiving to cover the cost of stipend and training.

The following year, Peace Fellow McLane from the Fletcher School at Tufts University, picked up where Alex left off and helped Constance to launch a pilot project to make and sell soap in the Epworth neighborhood. A second appeal from GlobalGiving raised $1,935 and paid for the materials. By the end of 2019, the girls had sold over 3,000 bottles of their Clean Girl soap. They had also described the threat from child marriage through a striking advocacy quilt which was displayed by Constance at the 2019 UN summit on women and girls in Nairobi.

The arrival of COVID-19 in March 2020 put soap-making on hold. Undeterred, the girls distributed emergency supplies to poor families. They also used their stitching skills to describe the savage impact of the pandemic on their lives.

As the pandemic began to recede, the girls returned to soap-making and sold around 6,000 bottles in 2020. Dickson from WAP profiled some of the WAP stars - Lisa, Trish, Tanatswa and Evelyn - for this sparkling video. Donors were impressed and WAP secured a 2-year commitment of $107,000 from four donors: Together Women RiseAction for World Solidarity in Berlin, Rockflower and ourselves.

*

Finally freed from lockdowns and helped by Dawa, our wonderful 2022 Peace Fellow, the WAP soap stars have taken their thriving business to a next level.

They are still worried about child marriage but none of them has married since the program began five years ago and they now see a much larger threat from poverty to their families and community. This has been exacerbated by the war in Ukraine which has led to food shortages, and by inflation. Some families earn as little as $2 a day while prices are soaring.

Soap remains their best hope to supplementing the family income. Sixty-eight girls are now participating in the program and they are about to reach their 2022 target of 16,000 bottles with three months still to go.

This has been achieved by streamlining and by reducing costs. A grant from Rockflower paid for a new center/factory where production can be centralized. WAP has also turned to solar power to avoid the crippling power outages that affect Harare. (Four panels were paid for donors, and another two from WAP’s soap profits.) Peace Fellow Dawa helped to secure a new vehicle from the Swiss embassy. This leaves WIFI as the major infrastructural challenge. WAP has improved labelling and packaging, which also saves time and money.

Instead of being shared out between all of the girls, the production of soap has been assigned to four experts – Trish, Dorcas, Lyness and Rosemary. This system was forced on WAP by the lockdowns but has proved to be highly efficient and been retained.

At the same time, all 68 girls take part in selling the soap and share the financial rewards - which is the main goal of the program. Over the past three years the girls have built up a loyal customer base in homes, in all-purpose stores (known as “tuck-shops”) and at supermarkets. This has allowed WAP to raise the price of Clean Girl soap by 50%, boosting sales.

The soap-sellers are no longer working in teams and helping each other to haggle for the best price, as we showed in the video. That is no longer necessary now that customers know the product.

Instead, WAP now gives each girl 11 cases - 66 bottles of soap - to sell in her neighborhood. She keeps 70% of what she sells and the remainder goes back to WAP to be re-invested. This means that the girls will share well over $12,000 this year, while WAP expects to have over $10,000 in the bank account by December. This is serious money!

*

Their success with soap has given the WAP girls a taste for innovation, starting with the environment.

The program is heavily dependent on plastic but as is so often the case in Africa, alternatives are incredibly expensive. There is no support for recycling in Zimbabwe and the Clean Girl bottles are too fragile to be used a second time. Bottle caps, however, are sturdy and can be cleaned and re-used. What is more, the cap accounts for 40% of the cost of each bottle (20 cents). WAP has promised the girls an additional dollar for every 20 caps they retrieve from customers. This is already proving popular.

At a time when food is short, WAP may also ask mothers of the girls to explore composting food waste and growing vegetables as practiced by our inspiring partner Stella in Nairobi. This would address the twin threats of pollution and hunger.

Having endured two years of lock-down the girls understood the importance of vaccinations and drew on the successful campaign in the Nairobi settlement of Kangemi to make the case for vaccinations to their own relatives and friends. This has produced 76 jabs so far.

Education is also on the agenda. No fewer than 50 of the 68 girls have yet to complete secondary school and AP and WAP have decided to launch a fund to provide scholarships. Peace Fellow Dawa created a spreadsheet of beneficiaries and estimates the cost at around $24,500 over 3 years. AP will prime the pump with $2,000. Of this, $682 was raised by American High School students who made and sold their own Clean Girl soap in solidarity with the WAP girls - a wonderful example of how Africa can inspire innovation in the US. WAP will contribute $500 from its soap sales to the new fund.

The WAP girls have also drawn on their talent for stitching to produce 30 embroidered blocks that will be offered for sale through a new AP online store this Fall, opening up another source of income. Bobbi and Delaney from AP visited Zimbabwe in the summer to offer advanced training.

*

It is hard to remain immune to the charm of the young WAP soap artists. Bobbi and Delaney, our embroidery trainers, found their enthusiasm infectious and enjoyed their sense of humor (photo). Our Peace Fellow Dawa organized a party to celebrate the opening of the new factory that turned into one long succession of hugs and gifts. As Dawa wrote in a blog: “I know I will cherish these tokens of friendships for a lifetime.”

But at the same time this is a business and tough decisions lie ahead. Dickson, who manages the program, reckons that his four soap producers could make over 50,000 bottles next year and is keen to keep them busy. This could produce as much as $30,000 for WAP.

But would it be enough to cover the increased cost of material? This will be made harder by the fact that one of WAP’s main grants ends in December. Dickson is doing the math and producing a new 3-year plan. He knows that the program will be measured by how soon it can be self-sustaining and will set bench-marks for how to get there.

If this could be achieved by girls who have faced down the pandemic and (in many cases) dropped out of school, it would send a brilliant signal to other hard-pressed urban communities in Africa.

In gratitude

WAP in Harare and AP in Washington

Trish and Bobbi at embroidery training
Trish and Bobbi at embroidery training
Preparing Clean Girl soap
Preparing Clean Girl soap
Dawa, the 2022 Peace Fellow at WAP
Dawa, the 2022 Peace Fellow at WAP
Watching Americans students selling their soap
Watching Americans students selling their soap
Celebrating the new soap factory in style!
Celebrating the new soap factory in style!

Links:

Share on Twitter Share on Facebook
Spring 2022 - WAP urges more vaccinations
Spring 2022 - WAP urges more vaccinations

This report is being sent to 93 friends who have supported our three GlobalGiving appeals on behalf of girls in Zimbabwe. Thank you! We are particularly grateful to those of you who have given recurring donations and will be writing to you separately.

We launched the first appeal in 2018 with our Zimbabwean partner, Women Advocacy Project (WAP). Since then we have raised $6,165.73 from friends through GlobalGiving, and over $30,000 from foundations.

This report will sum up progress so far and start looking ahead to next year, when current funding for the programis is due to end. The prospect is a bit frightening, but our Zimbabwean friends were brimming with ideas when we met them remotely last week. We are not surprised. The WAP girls have risen to every challenge over the past 4 years - including a brutal pandemic - with flair, courage and ingenuity. We offer some highlights in a recap of photos going back to 2018, when our partnership began.

*

First, some background. The original goal of the program was to help vulnerable girls resist early marriage. Most girls marry young because of poverty, so we decided to launch a soap-making start-up for 40 girls in the suburbs of Epworth and Chitungwiza.

This has been a huge success. The program expanded to 80 girls (4 neighborhoods) last year and together they produced and sold over 16,000 bottles of their special brand ‘Clean Girl' soap. Indeed, they met their production target with three months to spare – at the height of the pandemic. This more than a surprise – it was astounding!

Not to say it was easy. Facing curfews, lock-downs and the rising cost of fuel, Constance and Dickson, who run WAP, were forced to improvise. Instead of asking all 80 girls to produce, they selected 12 girls with the time, skills and motivation to take on production and bottling. The remaining girls divided the bottles between them and took their soap back to sell at shops in their neighborhood. The girls keep half of what they sell while the rest goes to WAP to be reinvested in the program. This has given the girls money and confidence. One result: not a single girl in the program has married under the age of 18.

It has continued into 2022. WAP has received a donation from Rockflower, a long-term friend of WAP, to build a new shop where production can be centralized. This will make it easier for the girls who live far away, but has also slowed things down. Zimbabwe has been hit by heavy rains, making it harder to install toilets and drainage.

There has also been a fall-off in participants. Forty-eight girls have been making and selling soap this year, which is well below the original target of 80. One of the four groups has barely participated. This will have to be clarified when the rains ease and life gets back to normal. Perhaps more girls are going to school and have less time on their hands, which would be good.

In spite of the delays, the 48 girls produced 7,326 bottles in January and February (the first production cycle) and have taken in $2,904 so far. Constance and Dickson are confident of meeting meet their 2022 target of 16,000 bottles.

*

There is much more to this program than soap. As we have noted in other reports, soap has given the girls focus, skills and a reason to work together. They are now using this cohesion to take on other social challenges, with exciting implications for the under-served neighborhoods of Zimbabwe.

Let's start witjh the pandemic. 24.3% of the population has been fully vaccinated, which is considerably better than neighboring countries like Kenya (15.2%), but with new variants on the horizon nothing is taken for granted. Vaccine skepticism is still widespread in the urban areas of Harare.

The WAP girls are countering this skepticism by making the case for vaccinations among friends, neighbors and family members. As well as promoting public health and hygiene, this builds team spirit and community engagement. The girls have designed their own lively tee-shirt, which is worn by Constance and two of her project leaders in the photo above. The girls take it all in their stride!

*

Our thoughts are now turning to what comes next. The math is scary. Even if the girls meet their 2022 sales target, the program will not have nearly enough in the bank to produce the same amount of soap next year.

The choices are thus clear: reduce numbers, cut production costs, increase sales, or find new donors – preferably, a combination of all three.

The worst option would be to reduce the number of participants. As well as running counter to the vision of the program, this would also reduce the sales team. Raising the price of soap would make Clean Girl soap less competitive at a time when poverty and inflation are rising sharply.

What of the other options? One idea emerged last year during a series of online meetings with US-based chapters from Together Women Rise, which has invested $32,000 in WAP’s program. Each liter costs 80 cents to produce and about a third goes into making the plastic bottle. If the amount of plastic could be reduced, through recycling or re-use, it would not only cut costs but also ease pressure on the environment. The biggest problem: Zimbabwe has few options for recycling and the bottles might prove too fragile for re-use.

WAP will also find it hard to cut the cost of fuel and electricity, which is rising by the day. WAP has money for solar panels, but it is almost impossible to find the materials needed to mount them on the roof.

*

All of these options, and others, need to be considered. With this in mind, we have recruited two student Peace Fellows to help WAP this summer. Dawa, a graduate student at the University of Texas A&M will work at WAP in Harare, while Aimee (UCLA) will back Dawa up remotely from the US. In addition, Delaney and Bobbi from AP will visit Harare in July to provide embroidery training and review activities for next year.

We also hope to focus on education. About a third of the WAP girls have dropped out of school because their families could not afford the fees. We would like to make it possible for every soap girl to complete secondary education - further underscoring soap's potential to trigger social change. With this in mind, WAP hopes to launch a small education fund next year.

First, however, we need to know who will qualify and how much it will cost. This will be a job for our two WAP Peace Fellows. In Zimbabwe, Dawa will meet with families, measure school attendance, profile beneficiaries and draw up a budget. In the US, Aimee will explore possibilities for fundraising. They will have a busy summer!

We look forward to reporting back in August. In the meantime, please share your thoughts with us by emailing constance.wap@gmail.com or iain@advocacynet.

With our deepest thanks

WAP in Harare, and AP in Washington.

Fall 2021 - soap sales make serious money!
Fall 2021 - soap sales make serious money!
Fall 2020 - describing COVID through embroidery
Fall 2020 - describing COVID through embroidery
Summer 2020 - distributing masks and soap
Summer 2020 - distributing masks and soap
Fall 2019 - soap-making begins
Fall 2019 - soap-making begins
2019 assembling the team
2019 assembling the team
2018 - the challenge of early marriage
2018 - the challenge of early marriage
Share on Twitter Share on Facebook
The soap-makers of Chitungwiza
The soap-makers of Chitungwiza

This report is going out to 79 friends who have generously donated to our three GlobalGiving appeals on behalf of the Women Advocacy Project in Zimbabwe (WAP).

You have donated a total of $5,848.15 to a wonderful project by WAP which trains girls to make and sell soap in four under-served neighborhoods of Harare. Your donations have allowed WAP to develop high quality soap with a catchy name (Clean Girl), create demand – and earn some money for the girls.

The original idea was to give the girls a financial incentive to resist early marriage. But the money they have earned from soap has made a much more significant contribution during a pandemic which has caused enormous distress and impoverished their families.

The girls have met their production target and are now looking to build on the momentum to address two other community challenges – girls’ education and vaccine skepticism. We will share their exciting plans for 2022 below.

*

Life in Zimbabwe during 2021 has been overshadowed by the pandemic, as it has in the rest of the world. When the first cases of coronavirus appeared last year there was panic at the prospect of the virus invading the neighborhoods of Harare, where health facilities are rudimentary. The authorities imposed an exceptionally harsh lockdown, which the WAP girls described through embroidery in this stunning advocacy quilt.

The government’s policy since has fluctuated with the rate of infections. While the restrictions have eased as vaccines become more available, it has still been very difficult for the WAP girls to produce soap for much of the year. They could not meet in large groups, and they had to return home by 5 pm because of the curfew. Several shops where they would expect to sell soap were also closed for long periods.

Constance, WAP’s inspiring director (photo), remained undaunted through it all.

Constance and her husband Dickson set two ambitious goals for 2021: first, increase the number of beneficiaries; and second produce and sell 16,000 bottles of Clean Girl soap.

The first goal was met in early 2021 when WAP took soap-making to two new neighborhoods, Waterfalls and Mbare (photos), and doubled the number of soap-makers from 40 to 80 girls. When it became increasingly difficult for the girls to meet in large groups WAP selected three talented girls from each of the four clubs and brought them to Constance's house to make their soap. By the end of September, the girls had filled 16,908 bottles, exceeding their target by almost 1,000 bottles! Each one received a bonus of $100 for her hard work.

*

Selling the soap has also difficult. Demand is highest in the local stores, known as "tuck shops" (photo). Many closed for long periods but the WAP girls still had a lot going for them. They had an excellent product which was modestly priced and much in demand. They had also earned a reputation for reliability before the pandemic.

They divided up the bottles and fanned out in teams in search of customers. It's been a highly-spirited affair, as this delightful video shows, The girls and their clients clearly enjoy haggling for the best deal! In fact, it is all part of WAP’s larger goal – to empower the girls and give them confidence for the challenges that lie ahead.

The girls still have some way to go if they are to meet their sales target and sell 16,000 bottles by end 2021. They had sold 9,000 bottles by mid-October, at which point WAP gave each of the four teams 1,200 bottles to sell in their neighborhoods. For the most part it has gone well; for example, the Epworth team has already sold its assignment and wants more. The other three teams have received orders for most of their soap, so it’s mainly a question of going back and retrieving their money from the shops.

That will leave 2,298 bottles still in stock. WAP anticipates a scramble to sell them by December 31!

Once the soap is sold the girls take the money back to WAP, where it is shared equally between the girls and WAP (to be reinvested in the project). Total earnings have reached $9,642 so far this year. The girls have received $5,521, which works out at $70 a girl - significant for families that live on as little as $2 a day (photo).

There are still no reports of anyone getting married before the legal age of 18 among the girls who have participated.

*

With WAP's encouragement we are now setting our sights on the education of the girls. Dickson from WAP and Sarina from AP have produced profiles of all 80 young soap-makers and found that forty-one have yet to finish secondary school. Some are as young as 14. A good number have dropped out of school.

Sarina and Dickson reckon that it might cost up to $50,000 over three years to complete the secondary education of all 80 girls. While this may seem a steep hill to climb, we are all keen to make a start and are making plans to establish an educatioin fund at the start of 2022.

Here in the US, we are turning to American High School students for help. We began by calling on Nina, 17, our youngest 2021 Peace Fellow (student volunteer). Nina, who attends High School in Georgia, persuaded a group of her friends from school to make their own Clean Girl soap. They taught themselves to make soap over the summer and sold their entire first batch in one weekend! This brought in over $700 for the Zimbabwe education fund.

We are also talking to a second group of High School students from the Girl Up club at the Wakefield High School in Arlington, Virginia. We first connected with the club last year when nine club members produced embroidered stories for a COVID quilt and developed a long-distance friendship through Zoom with the girls in Zimbabwe. Headed by Nahier and Elena, they too want to make their own Clean Girl soap and contribute to the education fund.

Back in Zimbabwe, Constance is looking for new ways to channel the energy of the WAP girls into helping their communities. She has drawn inspiration from Caren, an AP partner in Kenya who is mobilizing women to get vaccinated in the informal settlement of Kangemi, Nairobi. Constance feels the WAP girls might be interested in a similar campaign in the neighborhoods of Harare, where the rates of vaccinatioin are still low.

*

Let us end this report by observing that there is no limit to the ingenuity and enthusiasm of girls once they set their sights on a worhy cause – be it in Africa or the United States!

We hope that WAP can continue to inspire us all in 2022 and thank you again for your contributions.

With our deepest appreciation.

Constance (WAP), Abby and Iain (AP).

Making ends meet in Harare
Making ends meet in Harare
Constance, WAP founder and leader
Constance, WAP founder and leader
The market for Clean Girl soap - tuck shops
The market for Clean Girl soap - tuck shops
Soap earnings go a long way
Soap earnings go a long way
Soap making in Mbare
Soap making in Mbare
Soap making in Waterfalls
Soap making in Waterfalls
Share on Twitter Share on Facebook
Trish, Constance and the Epworth team sell soap
Trish, Constance and the Epworth team sell soap

This report is being sent to 67 friends who have donated $5,698 to our partner Women Advocacy Project (WAP) in Zimbabwe since 2019. Thank you!

Your donations have helped 80 girls to make and sell soap, and in so doing resist the pressure to marry early. This remains WAP's primary goal. But the pandemic has also reshaped WAP’s work and taken it in directions that we never expected. This report explains how it happened and where it could lead.

2019 - Clean Girl soap makes an entry

WAP’s program rests on a slippery foundation of thick, gooey liquid soap which comes in green plastic bottles and carries the bold name (chosen by the girls) of Clean Girl.

The project started in 2019 when McLane, a graduate student at the Fletcher School (Tufts), volunteered at WAP as a Peace Fellow. McLane accompanied Constance, WAP’s dynamic founder, to underserved neighborhoods of Harare and met with girls who had sacrificed their education – and sometimes even their health – to marry young. One third of all girls in Zimbabwe marry before the legal age of 18.

The biggest problem was poverty, which forced parents to seek out a wealthy husband for their daughters. Constance and McLane concluded that the best way to halt this was to empower girls and put some money in their pockets.

They turned to soap for help. WAP had already established clubs for girls in several poor neighborhoods, headed by girl “ambassadors.” Constance started soap training for two of the clubs in Chitungwiza and Epworth that were led by dynamic ambassadors, Evelyn and Trish.

During the second half of 2019, WAP sold around 6,000 liters of soap for $4,365. Half went to the girls and the rest was invested in WAP's soap program. Almost as important as the money was the girls' sense of accomplishment. Nothing is quite so empowering as selling your own products!

2020-2021 – The years of pandemic

Soap production came to a grinding halt in March 2021 when the pandemic struck. But WAP had stockpiled soap and materials and Dickson (WAP’s program manager) continued producing soap at home. Constance made over 1,000 facemasks.

WAP’s international friends, including AP and Rockflower, offered emergency funding which Constance and Dickson used to assemble care packages with masks, cooking oil and soap. These were distributed to health centers and poor families by the girls, along with a strong message about hand-washing and social distancing.

This impressive response to the pandemic persuaded two major donors, Action for World Solidarity in Berlin and the US-based Together Women Rise, to fund WAP to the end of 2022. WAP’s budget this year stands at $44,000 and this has enabled WAP to train 40 more girls in two new neighborhoods, Mbare and Waterfalls. It has also strengthened WAP’s planning, monitoring, money management, website, and photography. One result: a delightful video film that captures the high spirits of the young soap-makers (attached).

Soap-making got off to a slow start this year because of the continuing lockdown, and the need to train the new girls. But they learned quickly and were producing high quality soap within 2 weeks. As of May 1, WAP has sold 5,022 bottles and is confident of meeting their target of 16,000 bottles by year’s end.

All of the elements of a strong business are in place: a quality product; a well-known brand; a motivated team; and strong demand from consumers and retail outlets. This comes across in the video, where Mr Example, the owner of the Example Trading store in Epworth, tells the WAP team that their soap smells “almost like sunlight.” WAP has also received a government certification to use a bar-code and sell in supermarkets.

Meanwhile, the main goal is being met. If they can indeed sell 16,000 bottles the girls will share $8,000 this year and that would make a difference. “It has really helped,” says Miriam, one of the soap-makers from Chitungwiza. “We are now managing our own pocket money, buying our needs like sanitation and even helping our parents to pay school fees.” None of the girls has married since the program began.

Telling the story of COVID – and building friendships in the US

WAP’s program is proving its worth in other ways, by helping girls in the US and Zimbabwe to cope with the pandemic.

In the summer of 2020 we offered the WAP girls a creative outlet for their frustration. Several had enjoyed telling the story of child marriage through an advocacy quilt in 2019, so we suggested that they turn their skills to stitching the story of COVID. They responded with 12 powerful squares. One of the strongest designs, from Vimbai, described how domestic violence has increased during the lockdown. (Photo)

After the squares reached us, we sent them to Colleen, a skilled quilter in Wisconsin, to be assembled into an advocacy quilt. Colleen’s quilt was recently exhibited in public for the first time in Wilmington, North Carolina, where it was much admired.

Meanwhile, others have followed the example set by Vimbai and the other WAP artists. They include nine students at the Wakefield High School in Virginia who had originally hoped to make their own Clean Girl soap and send the proceeds to WAP in Zimbabwe. When this fell through in March 2020, they decided that they too would tell their COVID stories through embroidery.

Headed by two coordinators, Layla and Stephanie, the Wakefield team have made nine beautifully crafted squares about their COVID fears and explained their designs in podcasts. Early in 2021, their squares were assembled into a quilt by Beth, a well-known quilter, and exhibited alongside the WAP quilt in Wilmington on April 22. Four of the young artists attended. (Photo)

Layla and Stephanie tell us that this whole experience has been profoundly empowering. It has also brought them closer to the WAP girls in Zimbabwe. The two groups meet by Zoom every Saturday morning, and this has led to some hilarious encounters. (Photo) Zimbabweans have never seen snow, and the WAP girls watched with amazement as the Arlington team showed video footage of a recent snowstorm in Washington. Layla and her friends were equally surprised to see video of Constance and the girls singing and dancing before meals.

The two teams plan to bring their mothers into the next Zoom call, rounding off a remarkable crosscultural conversation.

Reaching out to American women

WAP's grant from Together Women Rise stipulated that WAP would meet with TWR chapters in the US throughout March. The time difference made it impossible for Constance to meet in person, so AP took on the task. We were joined by Stephanie, Layla and Kate from the Arlington group, who are close to the Zimbabwe girls in age and have done so much to expand WAP’s horizons internationally.

These stimulating discussions have produced plenty of good ideas. For example, several TWR groups expressed concern at the amount of plastic that is used to make Clean Girl soap in Zimbabwe. We put this to Constance, who agreed that customers should get the chance to refill their bottles. That would be a win-win for consumers, for WAP and for the environment – and another example of how this project is building fruitful partnerships between women and girls.

Looking ahead

While these unexpected outcomes are exciting, it is important to remember that goal #1 is to put money in the pockets of girls in Zimbabwe. This is happening, and there is every reason to expect that it will continue through 2022.

The question is what happens after 2022, when current funding comes to an end. WAP will have to find new money from increased sales or new donors, and that could be difficult if the pandemic persists and the economy remains stagnant. But Constance and her team have shown great resourcefulness during this difficult period so far. If anyone can adapt to new challenges, they can.

Here in the US, a new Peace Fellow will join AP next month to help coordinate our work with WAP. We will continue to promote WAP, look for new funds, and explore new ways to encourage the girls.

We have every reason to be optimistic. If this project has taught us anything, it is that new opportunities lie around every corner!

Thank you for making it possible!

The AP team

Making soap in Epworth during the pandemic
Making soap in Epworth during the pandemic
Constance sells Clean Girl soap in Chitungwiza
Constance sells Clean Girl soap in Chitungwiza
Sketching out a COVID story for the quilt
Sketching out a COVID story for the quilt
Vimbai describes a spike in domestic violence
Vimbai describes a spike in domestic violence
Stephanie and friends with their COVID quilt
Stephanie and friends with their COVID quilt
Saturday Zooms unite girls in US and Zimbabwe
Saturday Zooms unite girls in US and Zimbabwe

Links:

Share on Twitter Share on Facebook
Jubilation in Epworth after a soap sale
Jubilation in Epworth after a soap sale

This report is going, with thanks, to 58 friends who have donated through GlobalGiving to our appeals for the Women Advocacy Project (WAP) in Zimbabwe. These appeals have raised $5,052 for WAP since 2018. Thank you!

When we last reported to you in July the pandemic was on the rise in East Africa. In the weeks since, the threat has somewhat receded. As of writing, Zimbabwe has recorded 9,950 cases of infection and 276 deaths, which is well below what was predicted. But a price has been paid in the poorer communities of Harare where the lockdown has been harshly enforced. We’ll have more on that in a moment.

Background: Poverty and Early Marriage

This project was launched in 2018 to address the crippling poverty that forces families in Zimbabwe to marry their daughters off to older men. Fully one third of all girls in Zimbabwe marry before the legal age of 18.

Helped by Alex, an AP Peace Fellow from Columbia University, WAP hit on the idea of asking several girls to serve as “ambassadors against child marriage.” Evelyn was elected as ambassador for the community of Chitungwiza, and Trish was chosen to head the team from Epworth. WAP established girls’ clubs in both communities and began to reach out to girls who were at risk from early marriage.

In the summer of 2019 the program moved from outreach to income-generation. We deployed a second Peace Fellow – McLane from the Fletcher School at Tufts – to help WAP train 40 girls to produce soap. The girls came up with their own brand name – Clean Girl – and began to sell their soap at stores, known as Tuck Shops. By year’s end they had sold 6,041 liters for $4,365. We captured some of the excitement in this video profile of Evelyn. They were off to a good start!

COVID-19 Strikes

We described the challenge from COVID-19, and WAP’s response, in our July report. Desperate to keep the virus at bay, the Zimbabwean authorities imposed a harsh lockdown on inner-city neighborhoods. Small traders, like Evelyn’s father, were prevented from selling in the usual places. Families were barred from markets. People were fined for not wearing masks. Food ran short and tempers rose.

WAP responded heroically. Dickson, WAP’s program manager, produced 1,500 bottles of soap from his home. Constance, the founder and director of WAP, made almost 1,900 facemasks on her sewing machine, in between multiple power cuts.

The girls bundled up the soap and masks into emergency packages and added maize and cooking oil (also purchased with your donations). Heavily masked, they then distributed the packages to vulnerable families and medical clinics. WAP photos show the girls knocking on doors, urging families to wear masks and use soap. They are some of the most inspiring images to reach us this year.

Depicting The Pandemic Through Embroidery

In July, during the height of the pandemic, we asked Constance if the girls would like to describe the impact of COVID-19 through embroidery. They had learned to stitch the previous year and produced a wonderful quilt about early marriage that was exhibited at the ICPD25 UN summit in Nairobi (November 2019). We thought they would welcome the chance to put their skills to use again.

The girls jumped at the idea and attended several carefully controlled, masked, stitching sessions. Their finished blocks describe a society under siege. In one scene, thieves loot a store. In another, police prevent women from collecting water. Vimbai’s block depicts domestic violence. The prize for best design went to Bybit, whose block showed people being arrested for not wearing a mask.

One thing is clear from their art: if the impact of COVID-19 has been savage, the same can be said of the response.

Resuming Soap Production, Building A Business

As the threat from COVID-19 has receded, WAP has resumed making Clean Girl soap. Between September and December the project expects to produce 4,500 liters of soap. Half of the earnings goes to the girls, who are taking home around $22 a month. (This may not seem much but it is equivalent to half the monthly income of some families.) None of the girls has married since 2018. Simply put, the project is meeting its goals under the most difficult circumstances imaginable.

Looking further ahead, what began as an inspiring startup in 2018 is evolving into a sustained business. This has been made possible by the motivation of the girls, by the professionalism of the WAP team, by your donations and by generous grants from Action for World Solidarity in Berlin and Rockflower.

Production: WAP has invested in a solar-powered generator, which will allow for uninterrupted production, and a mechanical stirring machine, which has increased the amount of soap being made.

Marketing: The soap is now packaged and sold in six-packs, at a small discount. The number of stores buying Clean Girl soap is growing and orders are coming in from outside Harare. WAP has received government authorization to add a bar code to the label, which will allow the soap to be sold at supermarkets. Expanding the market is priority #1 for 2021.

Professionalism: WAP’s management and communications skills have improved dramatically. Dickson updates the WAP website and has become an accomplished videographer. In October, he produced two hours of video footage which was edited by our team in the US into a delightful film that shows WAP girls haggling with good-humored shopkeepers. “(Your soap) smells good!” says Mr. Example, owner of the Example Trading Store. “It is almost like sunlight!”

Donor support: WAP has been rewarded for this good work with a major grant from Dining for Women (DFW), the US-based network of women’s clubs. WAP will be the featured grantee in March 2021 and hopes to meet plenty of DFW chapters on Zoom!

More beneficiaries: With this new grant from DFW, WAP’s budget has grown from around $5,000 in 2018 to over $40,000 in 2021. This will allow WAP to expand the soap program to two more communities, Waterfalls and Mbare, and benefit 40 more girls and their families.

Your investment has certainly paid off!

With profound thanks and best wishes for a safe and enjoyable holiday.

The WAP and AP teams

Mixing soap is hard work!
Mixing soap is hard work!
Tanatswa, right, is a skilled soap-maker
Tanatswa, right, is a skilled soap-maker
Trish supplies a tuck shop with Clean Girl soap
Trish supplies a tuck shop with Clean Girl soap
WAP girls describe the pandemic through embroidery
WAP girls describe the pandemic through embroidery
Lisa's square shows looters during the lockdown
Lisa's square shows looters during the lockdown

Links:

Share on Twitter Share on Facebook
 

About Project Reports

Project Reports on GlobalGiving are posted directly to globalgiving.org by Project Leaders as they are completed, generally every 3-4 months. To protect the integrity of these documents, GlobalGiving does not alter them; therefore you may find some language or formatting issues.

If you donate to this project or have donated to this project, you will get an e-mail when this project posts a report. You can also subscribe for reports via e-mail without donating.

Get Reports via Email

We'll only email you new reports and updates about this project.

Organization Information

The Advocacy Project

Location: Washington, DC - USA
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @AdvocacyProject
Project Leader:
Iain Guest
Washington, DC United States
$2,530 raised of $5,000 goal
 
54 donations
$2,470 to go
Donate Now
lock
Donating through GlobalGiving is safe, secure, and easy with many payment options to choose from. View other ways to donate

The Advocacy Project has earned this recognition on GlobalGiving:

Help raise money!

Support this important cause by creating a personalized fundraising page.

Start a Fundraiser

Learn more about GlobalGiving

Teenage Science Students
Vetting +
Due Diligence

Snorkeler
Our
Impact

Woman Holding a Gift Card
Give
Gift Cards

Young Girl with a Bicycle
GlobalGiving
Guarantee

Sign up for the GlobalGiving Newsletter

WARNING: Javascript is currently disabled or is not available in your browser. GlobalGiving makes extensive use of Javascript and will not function properly with Javascript disabled. Please enable Javascript and refresh this page.