Organic soap production brightens the future for women producers in Senegal
A unique private sector partnership aims to bolster the economic autonomy for Senegalese women soap producers. Crossroads International partnered with a global leader in personal care products The Green Beaver Company to help local partner Union Nationale des Femmes Coopératrices du Sénégal (National Union of Senegalese Women’s Co operatives or UNFCS) accelerate their growth.
Members of UNFCS have participated in two mandates in Hawkesbury Ontario and Montreal. “We came here to learn more about marketing, stock management and raw materials management in order to increase our production capacity in Senegal,” explained Thioro Fall, UNFCS coordinator who came to Canada twice in 2016. Fall says their time with Green Beaver enabled them to learn more about the process of soap production and to improve productivity when they returned to Senegal.
Training sessions on making liquid soap and lip balm are helping them diversify their product lines. Green Beaver’s management and staff made it all possible, generously sharing their time, formulas and production techniques with the UNFCS representatives. “The Green Beaver Company is proud to work with members of UNFCS to further improve the living conditions of women in Senegal and foster socio-economic development in the region,” said Alain Ménard, co-founder and CEO of Green Beaver. “By sharing our knowledge, it offers the organization expertise that will enable it to avoid certain missteps and advance more quickly toward success.” Ménard says, The Green Beaver Company has also learned from the Senegalese women. It found inspiration in their cold process for making bars of soap, which it used to develop a new process for making liquid soap. The company was also inspired by the Senegalese women’s practice of using local plants in their soaps and added Labrador Tea, which grows in Northern Quebec, to some of their products in the past year.
Crossroads is also seeking support for UNFCS to invest in new equipment for nine of its regional branches, in an attempt to homogenize its products and product quality.
“The Green Beaver Company is proud to work with members of UNFCS to further improve the living conditions of women in Senegal and foster socio-economic development in the region.” Alain Ménard, co-founder and CEO of Green Beaver.
Djibril Dioum is a Crossroads volunteer currently on placement in Senegal. He is working on building capacity and helping the women of UNFCS market and sell their soaps. “It has changed their lives. These activities [the soap sales] help a lot with their family expenses. […] They manage to help their husbands. […] Therefore, they get more and more responsibilities within their families because their husbands trust and consider them more and more, and they make the decisions together,” he explained.
Crossroads is also facilitating leadership training for UNFCS representatives with another Canadian partner Papillon MDC, a Montreal firm that offers leadership coaching. To date, they have taken part in training, personal coaching, and leadership sessions with a view to developing a spirit of initiative and passing it on to the other members. Papillon MDC, has generously developed a tailored leadership program for young women. Through this program, more experienced women members of UNFCS will be paired with younger women to encourage them to take on more important roles within the cooperatives. A trainer will be sent to the Diourbel Regional cooperative to pilot the Papillon MDC training program with 30 women. The program will then be replicated throughout the network of cooperatives in the coming year.