WaterAid is celebrating the achievements of women by launching a powerful short film about a female-led soap-making group in Mali. The film, which premiered in London at Shorts on Tap’s film screening on 8 May, features a trailblazing co-operative whose microfinance business has created jobs, increased women’s confidence and independence and improved community well-being.
A quarter of Malians – around 4.5 million people – live without access to clean water, and two-thirds – over 12 million people – have no decent toilets. Women and children are particularly affected, with many walking long distances every day to collect water, which limits their ability to get an education or work and earn money.
The revolutionary Soapmakers of Samabogo in Mali are changing this story. With the support of players of People’s Postcode Lottery, WaterAid has been working with the collective to provide clean water, hygiene training and sanitation facilities, training the women in business, finance and literacy so that they can earn a decent income from producing the soap.
Soap is crucial for maintaining good hygiene practices, helping prevent disease, which in turn helps to boost children’s nutrition and keep them strong and healthy. When groups are supported to produce soap, it becomes more affordable and so more people are able to use it.
The 30 members of the Kanuya Cooperative in Samabogo meet weekly in their green uniforms under the shade of trees behind a local church, singing as they stir the pots of soap and shea butter. They pay a fee to join and are trained in co-operative management as well as business plan development and micro-loan granting. By lending out their profits the women are able to build their business as well as support the members, creating a brighter future for themselves, their families and future generations.
54-year-old Ruth Diallo, who chairs the soapmakers’ collective, says:
“I think that when a woman joins this group, she feels empowered. The empowerment of women in this village is very important because when a woman is empowered, when you are independent, you can do many things for yourself.”
The oldest group member, Dania Sogoboa, 67, shares:
“Thanks to the group, there is a connection between the women of the village. We also talk to other villages about our expertise. We discuss together how we can develop ourselves. I was alone, but now I have people to talk to. When I have a problem I can get a loan to resolve it and then later, when I have the money, I can repay it.”
Karia Coulibaly, 60, is also part of the soapmakers’ collective. She explains how the group and the arrival of clean water has made a difference to the lives of the villagers:
“Being part of the group has opened my mind and helped me to learn a lot, like how to do business and gain benefits from it. We no longer go to the market to buy soap as we make it ourselves here. With the availability of drinking water at the tap, the village is now much cleaner. People no longer use the water from the wells. We have witnessed a reduction in illnesses.”
Laura Chow, Head of Charities at People’s Postcode Lottery said:
“We are delighted that players of People’s Postcode Lottery have been able to support this innovative women’s project in Mali and to have an impact on the lives of people in some of the world’s poorest communities. Empowering women has a ripple effect on society, making it more equal and more prosperous for everyone. Players should feel proud to be playing a role in helping unlock people’s potential.”
Tim Wainwright, Chief Executive of WaterAid said:
“I met the Samabogo women’s group when I was recently in Mali and was struck by the women’s camaraderie as they went about their work. All ages were working together for a common purpose and I was delighted to be invited to make soap with them.
“Once a clean water source arrives in a community, women and girls’ time is freed to take up other opportunities – including the possibility of earning additional income for the family. Soap making not only helps provide a bit of extra money but also helps maximise the impact of clean water by encouraging good hygiene. This in turn helps whole communities to thrive.”
The Soapmakers of Samabogo film premiered at Shorts on Tap’s Reality Check event on Wednesday 8 May in East London.
The Soapmakers of Samabogo project is supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery, who have raised more than £10 million for WaterAid since 2013. This is transforming millions of lives across Sub-Saharan Africa and contributing to WaterAid’s vision of a world where everyone, everywhere has access to clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene.