Making soap from palm oil at the Bamako center
Third report from the soap-makers of Mali
This is the third report on our Global Giving appeal to help survivors of armed sexual violence in Mali produce and sell soap. There is a lot to tell!
First, thank you all for your generosity. Sixty-nine donors have given a total of $6,070, which is approaching our target of $7,500. Donations have ranged in size from $10 to $1,000.
We owe much to our good friend Luigi Laraia, from the World Bank, who contacted his network before braving Mount Denali in Alaska and dedicated his climb to the soap project. Luigi’s donors include the Credit Union at the World Bank. A big thanks to you all!
We also want to salute Rose Twgirumukiza, who has spent the last ten weeks volunteering with our Malian partner Sini Sanuman as an AP Peace Fellow (student volunteer). As we mentioned in our last report, Rose’s personal story is inspiring. After losing her father to the Rwandan genocide, Rose spent several years as a refugee before reaching the US. She now studies at Georgetown and received American citizenship just days before heading to Mali. Rose has heself raised almost $1,000 for the soap project on Global Giving and become – like Luigi – a key player in this project. She has described her summer in Mali in a series of well-written blogs, and photos.
Sini Sanuman’s goal is to help women survivors of war rape to recover their confidence by training them to make and sell soap (Sini Savon). This is done at two centers in Bamako and Bourem, a strategic town in the north. 420 women have benefited from the program since it began in 2014. Beneficiaries like Mariam (not her real name), who is pictured below, do not want to be identified by name but are happy to be photographed.Several have also described their ordeal through embroidery in the second Alafia Mali advocacy quilt.
Soap is one of the most innovative features of this program, because it offers therapy, skills and an income to women who lost everything (including often their husbands).
Sini Sanuman hopes to produce and sell 25,000 bars this year, of which 5,000 are made from shea butter (beurre de kerite). By the end of June, Sini Sanuman had produced around 9,000 bars of soap and was falling behind the target. We were also concerned that soap sales were not being properly recorded. Meanwhile, here in the US we ay AP were struggling to sell samples of shea butter because outlets complained of the smell.
As a result, we asked Rose, our Peace Fellow, to focus on improving the quality of the soap, book-keeping and storage. Working with Aissata Toure, the soap trainer, Rose experimented wih local scents until they found a combination that worked. They then realized that Sini Sanuman was using old molds that were rusting and discoloring the soap. Rose found a skilled metal worker, Idrissa, who produced the first of several quality molds that carried the imprint of our brand – Sini Savon (photos below). The team turned next to building a shed where soap could be stored and kept clean before being sold. Finally, Rose and Aissata introduced a new system of book-keeping, under which the women would receive half of whatever they sell in the market, on producing a receipt. The rest would be deposited in a Sini Savon bank account and help to cover future costs. By the end of June, the account had 315,000 CFA ($480).
Rose made two final contributions before leaving Mali. First, she sold a first batch of shea butter soap to a local Malian hotel. Second, she brought 100 bars of Sini Savon back to the US, to be sold at events and in university stores. We may or may not sell 5,000 bars of shea soap this year, but Rose has certainly helped to build a strong foundation as we go forward.
This is essential if the program is to grow and become self-sustaining. Sini Sanuman hopes to open a third center in Bamako before the end of this year and also start training local women’s associations in soap-making. This would greatly increase the number of beneficiaries. The UN is interested and we have pledges from two important donors – the governments of Germany and Liechtenstein. It is more important then ever that all the pieces are in place.
Your donations will help enormously by allowing us to make strategic investments as needed, as we have done this year. We will keep you informed through future reports.
Once again, thank you for helping to make this a successful program!
From your friends at Sini Sanuman (Mali) and The Advocacy Project (Washington DC)
Soap helps Malian women to recover from war rape
Peace Fellow Rose Twagirumukiza in Mali with soap
Rose with Idrissa, the mold-maker
Voila! Sini Savon emerges from the new mold!
Sini Savon heads to the Bamako market