Last year, 45 adolescent girls from 10 villages in Sierra Leone were selected for a special soap making & selling training program implemented by World Hope International and funded by the IFC. The girls acquired basic business skills – including marketing, saving, and budgeting skills. They also received human rights and women’s empowerment information and resources to help safeguard them from trafficking and sexual or gender-based violence. Not only are they now producing handmade herbal soap and selling it, but they received entrepreneurship training during the program, as well, and they are making use of what they learned!

Seizing an opportunity 

Pandemics, as with conflicts and disasters, can lead to civil unrest, instability, lack of governance, and a reduction in social services including women’s health and reproductive services. UN Women notes that women are also more likely than men to form part of the informal economy and to work in the types of jobs that are first cut during the pandemic, placing them at higher risk of income insecurity due to COVID-19. This loss of jobs and services for women and girls can, in turn, increase situations of vulnerability to transactional sex or teenage pregnancy with less access to a livelihood or income revenue.

Several of the girls selected to participate in the project had previously dropped out of school as a result of poverty. Some of them already faced stigma and pregnancy, as well, as a result of the cycle of poverty and the lack of resources and jobs accessible to women and girls. The soap making project, though, was set up precisely for that; to help the most vulnerable girls in the communities become equipped, empowered, and economically stabilised. One of the most challenging parts of the entire project was having to limit the program to only 45 girls out of the many more who hoped this could be the opportunity they had been seeking, too. 

Some girls in the soap making project

was able to get my school learning materials and return back to school out of the soap making and selling and the capacity-building skills trainings we have.” 

After completing the robust training and setting up their soap-making businesses, the majority of the girls in the program have already been able to return to school. The proceeds from making and selling soap were just what they needed to be able to purchase necessary school supplies, pursue their education and dreams, and continue to build a better life for themselves.

Some have relatives who help them sell the soap while they attend classes again and others sell the soap on weekends, when there are no classes to attend for school. 

Expanding on the possibilities through entrepreneurship

For many of these adolescent girls, learning how to make and sell soap was only the beginning. Not only did they seize the opportunity to participate in the training program, not only did they learn all the steps in producing homemade herbal soap and then how to package and sell them, but they also soaked up everything they could about entrepreneurship. They completed the training set up and equipped to make and sell soap and to manage money and marketing—and with the ability to assess and safely navigate additional markets, too. 

After setting up their soap production businesses, some of the girls identified other items needed in their localities and have begun to acquire and sell them, as well.  

“I am selling things that are needed with our localities out of the soap making and selling and the saving money and budgeting trainings.”

These girls shared that, before the soap making and selling project, the majority of things needed by their communities were not available locally. Now, with the business skills they developed from the soap training and the resources that selling soap has afforded them, they have been able to identify, acquire, and sell these additional items needed within their communities along with making and selling soap. They know what the needs are and they are empowered to act on it. 

“I can now boast of selling dried fish for the community people and beyond out of the business skills and business planning trainings.”

Equipped and economically stabilised  themselves, they are now able to smartly resource their own communities while continuing to build a better future for themselves. 

*Names withheld for privacy

Learn more about the soap-making project or watch Victoria share her story of participating in the program and the impact it is having on her life. 

You can also learn more about World Hope’s protection work around the world, which includes efforts to end trafficking and gender or sexual-based violence as well as our work to build access to quality education. 

If you are passionate about these things and want to be part of the work, you can make a gift to The Hope Fund today, which enables us to continue making a difference and coming alongside people and communities when and where it matters. 

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