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Corporate partnership empowers youth to claim their future

Crossroads volunteers knew UNFCS could be a real catalyst for young Senegalese women to drive their economic future, improve their standard of living and prospects and have a real impact on their communities. As a growing network of women led soap producers, UNFCS members have the experience and skills to nurture a new generation of entrepreneurs. However, it is sometimes challenging for young women to break into the business.

Promoting the leadership of young women is at the heart of an inspiring corporate partnership launched in 2016 by Crossroads International and its Canadian partners, Papillon MDC and Green Beaver, to support UNFCS, and that’s why Papillon MDC designed the mentor-mentee program.

This program supports experienced women soap producers to mentor young women in the cooperative and to involve them in the decision-making so they can develop their entrepreneurial skills, self-confidence and leadership to ultimately take over the business.

Papillon MDC trained Crossroads volunteer Marie-José Surpris in their leadership development program. Marie José knew the project well having played a pivotal role with her firm Umalia in brokering the private sector partnership. She went with Margaux Roncière, a young artist, to the Diourbel regional union, in Senegal, in July to work and train both experienced and younger women.

Margaux Roncière created a short story about a young Senegalese woman, Aissatou, who takes a leadership position in her group, as a way to illustrate the different skills the young women would need to develop their leadership. Young women’s reaction to this story was powerful with many girls saying they wanted to be even stronger than Aissatou. “The training led to an evolution in the women’s minds, for both mentors and mentees. Even though some experienced women are still reluctant because of cultural beliefs, others recognized the importance of involving the youth in the organization,” Marie-José explained.

While the impact of the program on the women will be seen in the long term, Marie José said that her recommendation to implement a rotation plan that would allow the young women to increase their participation in the organization’s activities seems to have been followed as in the weeks following the training, more young women have come to the union.

Marie-José Surpris and Margaux Roncière with the women from UNFCS










“We see real promise in this program and we are really grateful for Papillon MDC’s contributions,” Crossroads’ Senegal Program Officer, Babacar Samb said. In the next phase of the project, with support from the Programme Québécois de Développement International (PQDI) from the Ministère Québécois des Relations International et de la Francophonie, Papillon MDC’s mentor/mentee program will be implemented in nine other regional unions. The grant was announced during the summer and the project is set to start in December. This project will also help the regional unions build capacity through trainings and workshops designed to develop management and leadership skills, teach members best practices in soap and by-product production and support them with regional and national sales and monitoring and evaluation. The regional unions will also receive standardized soap production equipment to increase efficiency and product harmonization.

As Quebec is about to celebrate international solidarity during Quebec’s International Solidarity Days, our partners, Papillon MDC and Green Beaver, show once more, through this new project, that solidarity knows no borders.

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