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
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
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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

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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

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Civic duty: WAP girls make face masks in Harare
Civic duty: WAP girls make face masks in Harare

This report is being sent to friends who have generously supported the efforts of our partner in Zimbabwe, the Women Advocacy Project (WAP), to combat early marriage through income generation. We have launched three appeals for WAP on GlobalGiving since 2018 and raised almost $5,000 from 45 donors.

Since our last report in March, the world has turned upside down. Zimbabwe is very much on the front lines in the fight against COVID-19 as we will shortly explain. But the main takeaway from this report will be entirely positive. The girls in Harare who have benefitted from your generosity have risen to the challenge of the pandemic like true heroes.

First, Zimbabwe. So far, the country has registered 1,820 cases of COVID-19, with 26 deaths. This may seem low, but Zimbabwe’s medical services are in tatters and the fear has always been that if the virus gets into the crowded communities of Harare, it will be unstoppable.

As a result, the government has enforced the lockdown with severity, and even violence. We hear that the police and soldiers are raiding communities, and arresting and fining people who are not wearing masks in public. Locked down in cramped houses, often without electricity or access to food, people are scared.

We first asked for your support in 2018 to help WAP train two teams of girls in the communities of Epworth and Chitungwiza to produce and sell soap. Our hope was that with some money in their pocket, the girls and their parents would find it easier to resist early marriage.

The launch was a rousing success and the soap-making was really taking off in March. Between them the two teams had produced and sold over 1,000 bottles of Clean Girl soap and were on a roll!

Then COVID-19 descended and priorities changed. Faced by the threat of infection, food shortages, closed schools, and restricted movement, WAP mobilized the girls to serve their immediate communities.

Soap-making was of course suspended, but over 200 bottles of Clean Girl remained unsold. These were shared out among the girls, to be used by their families and neighbors. WAP then launched a small emergency appeal that yielded $4,500 from several close friends - Action for World Solidarity in Berlin, the Pollination Project, Rockflower and AP.

This allowed Constance, the head of WAP, to produce face-masks and train six girls to make masks. Dickson, the WAP program manager, made 1,250 bottles of soap at home with left-over material from the soap trainings. Wearing masks and observing social distancing at all times, Constance and Dickson then worked with the girls to assemble emergency kits comprising cooking oil, maize flour, face masks and soap.

WAP gave kits to four clinics that were running dangerously short of essential material. Constance then turned to Chitungwiza and Epworth. Trish and Evelyn, WAP’s two “ambassadors” against child marriage, led teams of girls out into the communities to distribute the kits to over a hundred highly vulnerable families. With each visit they dispensed advice about social distancing, hygiene and nutrition. As you can see from the photos, their advice was generally well heeded!

This contribution by WAP, at very little cost, has helped to stabilize these two distressed communities and ease some of the pressure. Throughout it all, WAP has managed the project effectively and transparently, in spite of the challenges. They have kept us informed about expenditures and monitored results. And Constance is the first to agree that she has learned a lot, often by trial and error. This gives us great confidence that any future invstment in WAP will be very well used.

Here at AP we have not recruited a Peace Fellow to work with WAP this summer, but we have an active team of undergraduate assistants supporting our partners and they are keen to meet Evelyn and Trish remotely, much as Claire did in April. We hope that WhatsApp will oblige! There is nothing like personal contact to remind us that we are all in this pandemic together, rich or poor.

We have taken other steps to encourage WAP through this difficult period. We featured Constance in a recent news bulletin honoring mask-makers, and are acting as fiscal sponsor for an ambitious 2-year soap-making proposal by WAP. Constance has also started to blog directly to our website, which helps us all to better understand the pressures on Zimbabweans.

Finally we are embarking on a new quilt project that will allow the WAP girls to describe their lives through embroidery. The girls produced spectacular squares for the Zimbabwe Child Marriage Quilt last year and they want to return to stitching! We think it's a great idea. Anything that feeds the energy and creativity of these young women will help to keep the pandemic at bay!

Thank you again for your generous support. Please stay safe.

Iain, Constance and the teams from AP and WAP.

Before: Evelyn makes the case for face masks
Before: Evelyn makes the case for face masks
After: Success - another family is safer!
After: Success - another family is safer!
Constance from WAP makes masks, inspire girls
Constance from WAP makes masks, inspire girls
Delivering emergency kits to the clinic
Delivering emergency kits to the clinic
Dickson has made 1,250 bottles of soap at home
Dickson has made 1,250 bottles of soap at home

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Evelyn from Chitungwiza
Evelyn from Chitungwiza

This report is being sent to friends who have generously supported the efforts of our partner in Zimbabwe, the Women Advocacy Project (WAP) to combat early marriage. We have launched three appeals for WAP on GlobalGiving since the summer of 2018 and raised $4,692 from 45 donors. In total, we have transferred $10,499.30 to WAP since the startup begun.

This report is, of course, coming to you at a very difficult time. But WAP’s work is a reminder that communities and families are the first line of defense when a crisis strikes. Early marriage may lack the drama of COVID19 but it is certainly a slow-burning emergency for girls across Africa. One third of all girls in Zimbabwe are thought to marry before the legal age of 18.

With this in mind, we would like to introduce you to Evelyn, 21, a leader in WAP’s campaign. Evelyn, seen in the top photo, is one of two girl “ambassadors” who have been selected by WAP to lead teams of girls in the under-served communities of Epworth and Chitungwiza, Harare.

WAP’s hope is that the two ambassadors will work with their teams to educate girls about early marriage, identify girls who are vulnerable to marriage, and enable WAP to intervene.

WAP’s second goal is to train girls to make and sell liquid soap and so relieve the economic pressure on their families to marry their daughters off to older, richer, men. After years of economic mismanagement and neglect, the pressure is brutal. Zimbabwe is in an economic freefall, and the value of the Zimbabwe bond against the dollar has fallen by 50% in the last six months. This falls most heavily on poor families.

But Evelyn also shows that there is enormous resiliency in these communities. We have told Evelyn’s story in a recent video – The Soap-maker of Chitungwiza. Evelyn's parents earn between 1 and 2 dollars a day. Her two younger sisters often go to school hungry and there are holes in their shoes. But the family is loving and they can fall back on a tightly-knit community, in which neighbors share precious resources like water.

Evelyn herself handles it all with grace and humor, and never loses sight of her core message: "Even (as) girls we can be someone in life. You can be a lawyer, you can be a doctor, you can be anything you want in life rather than getting married while still under the age of 18."

Evelyn also uses the movie to describe WAP’s soap startup, launched last summer with help from McLane, an AP Peace Fellow, and by donations from Rockflower and Action for World Solidarity in Berlin. By the time AP visited in November last year, the two teams had produced and sold over 900 bottles of their own brand of Clean Girl soap. While the soap only sells for a dollar a bottle, WAP reports that some girls are earning enough to contribute towards school fees.

As the movie shows, these productions are a source of entertainment and companionship for the girls and admiring parents. Clean Girl soap is “taking the girls away from child marriage and unnecessary bad things like rape, prostitution and drug abuse,” according to Molene, a WAP program officer.

WAP has also used advocacy quilting to spread the word. In the summer of 2019 eleven girls, including Evelyn, told the story of child marriage through embroidered squares which were then brought back to the US by McLane and assembled into the Zimbabwe Child Marriage quilt in Rhode Island. Evelyn’s disturbing square shows a 13-year old girl married to a much older man who already has three wives. His young wife is already pregnant. As Evelyn explains on camera, she has known of such cases in Chitungwiza.

In November 2019, WAP used the quilt to take its message to the international community when Constance joined AP’s delegation to the UN summit on women and girls in Nairobi (ICPD25). Constance spent three busy days using the quilt to denounce child marriage to delegates and followed up by visiting the UN on her return to Zimbabwe.

WAP’s work will no doubt be affected by COVID19, but the fight against poverty and injustice will go on. And in Zimbabwe, as elsewhere, it will be led by communities that are on the frontlines.

Thank you again for your generous support.

Iain, Constance and the teams from AP and WAP.

Michelle, 19, makes soap at WAP
Michelle, 19, makes soap at WAP
Soap-making builds community and sells soap!
Soap-making builds community and sells soap!
Trish tells her story for the child marriage quilt
Trish tells her story for the child marriage quilt
Constance from WAP supervises soap-making
Constance from WAP supervises soap-making
Constance shows her quilt at ICPD25 in Nairobi
Constance shows her quilt at ICPD25 in Nairobi

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The Advocacy Project

Location: Washington, DC - USA
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Twitter: @AdvocacyProject
Project Leader:
Iain Guest
Washington, DC United States
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