Liquid Soap Making

‘Restoring Dignity’ liquid soap making project

Mhani Gingi Social Entrepreneurial Network and the Saartjie Baartman Centre for Women and Children in Cape Town partnered to launch the unique ‘Restoring Dignity’ Liquid Soap Producing Enterprise funded by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to empower abused women with entrepreneurial skills.

The Dutch Soap Making and Training Hub Project was launched in September 2016 and is aimed at building financial independence through the establishment of a soap manufacturing social enterprise. The women beneficiaries of the project are empowered with skills to generate the financial means to support themselves and their families.

In Phase One of the project, in January 2017, the first five women beneficiaries were selected.  They have mastered the production process and delivered their first order for 150 units of liquid organic soap to the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.  The soap is packaged in 250ml and 500ml containers and the first group of women beneficiaries chose to call their enterprise ‘The African Violets:  Women in the Making’.  Dutch Soap Making and Education Hub Project Manager, Liezl van der Westhuizen, and an expert and technical specialist assisted Mhani Gingi on the project.

A venture with great potential for measurable impact

“The Saartjie Baartman Centre for Women and Children are thrilled to be partnering with Mhani Gingi for the soap-making project,” said Shaheema Mcleod, Director of the Saartjie Baartman Centre for Women and Children.  “This new venture has great potential for all concerned!”

“More importantly though, the clients benefiting from this initiative have the ability to not only access training but to acquire a new scarce skill, earn a stipend while learning, gain business skills and the potential to develop a small business after an extended learning programme.

“Our clients come from disadvantaged backgrounds and are seldom given an opportunity that could very well change their life path. The participants will see a measurable impact and sustainable change from this learning experience,” Mcleod said.

Making women less vulnerable to abuse

Bregje Wijsenbeek, Senior Political Officer:  Political Affairs at the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, commented:  “Financial independence for women will make women less vulnerable to domestic abuse.  This project goes further though, as learning a new skill and being creative can also help a person to heal from traumatic experiences.

“The embassy is very proud to support this project and we are grateful that we can benefit by having clean nice smelling hands too,” Wijsenbeek added.

Bregje Wijsenbeek, Senior Policy Officer: Political Affairs at the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands; Lillian Masebenza, Founding Director of Mhani Gingi Social Entrepreneurial Network; and Dutch Soap Making and Education Hub Project Manager, Liezl van der Westhuizen, at a trial run of the soap making process.

Consul General in Cape Town, Bonnie Horbach, and the Ambassador to the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Marisa Gerards, hoped to visit the project in 2017.

The Saartjie Baartman Centre is situated in Manenberg on the Cape Flats where rates of crime, gangsterism, child abuse, unemployment, substance abuse and domestic violence are high.  The services offered by the centre for the management, treatment and prevention of violence against women and children include 24-hour crisis response; a residential shelter and transitional housing for abused women and their children; legal assistance; and job-skills training.

Technical skills to run small enterprises

Successive groups of women beneficiaries will be selected to join the Dutch Soap Making and Education Hub Project and will gain the technical and business expertise needed to expand the volume of production so that the soap-making enterprise in Phase Two will become a fully-fledged business.

The Education Hub will offer workshops by a number of subject matter experts to facilitate greater awareness around women’s legal rights and responsibilities as well as to build their self-confidence.  In addition, a series of business workshops will aim to teach participants the basic level of technical skills required to run their own small enterprises. These workshops will be open to other women in the Mhani Gingi network and at the Saartjie Baartman Centre who have suffered emotional or physical abuse.

International internship student, Roos Reijsenbach de Haan, from the Netherlands, left, helped test the production process. With her are Lillian Masebenza, Founding Director of Mhani Gingi, and Liezl van der Westhuizen, Dutch Soap Making Project Manager.

The soap that is being manufactured uses mostly organic ingredients and where possible employs environmentally sustainable methods.  The Dutch Soap Making and Training Hub Project builds on experience and expertise in the art of soap manufacturing, packaging, brand design and consumer marketing gained by Mhani Gingi from the Hope Soap project which was launched in 2012.  That project used recycled materials from the hotel industry.

Item updated on 11 November 2020.