Benjamin and I are on a teaching trip in Senegal as part of our non-profit, Lovin’ Soap Project. We are teaching a group of eight incredibly smart, loving and differently-abled women to make soap to sell in Senegal and in the larger world market. These women inspire me daily. One woman in a wheel chair throws herself out of it every day to get down on the ground to make soap. These women are able and determined to make this business work.
This project is a partnership between Lovin’ Soap Project and Deline’s Gift. Deline’s Gift is run by Karine Sar. Read about her story here. Karine provides micro-financing to women in the Casamance region of Senegal and acts as project manager on many different projects including charcoal production, coconut oil production and now… soap making. She provides support to the women as they create their businesses and helps to tell their stories to those all over the world.
Our differently-abled women have disabilities ranging from total loss of leg-use to hips that have been displaced and never healed. Four out of eight women told us that their disability was caused by either a flu shot or another vaccine shot (probably polio). The stories are so heartbreaking.
In their community if you are disabled you are pretty much thrown away. Some of them have families that abandoned them and some of them tell stories of falling in love with a man, having his child and then having his family tell them that they can’t marry because of the way they are.
Deline’s Gift and Lovin’ Soap Project are helping to change the way the community views them by helping them become business women and leaders of their community. They have an opportunity to completely change the way they and others like them are viewed in the community.
The Casamance is an agriculturally-rich area full of natural resources, many used for soap making. The women actually make their own coconut oil and are currently selling it in the community. A village 30 minutes away produces palm oil and palm kernel oil. Shea butter and sunflower are easy to find. Touloukouna oil is a local oil that is highly sought after and contains many benefits for the skin. Herbs such as moringa, peppermint, teas, cinnamon and hibiscus are plentiful and free for use.