Rose, the Shea butter soap is of high quality, but it smells bad. We need to improve the smell. Iain, the leader of the Advocacy Project repeatedly said this to me as I was preparing for my trip to Mali, which happened to be in the middle of finals. During that time when everything seems interesting except your school work, I would look up on google what kind of fragrances that are used to make soap smell good. Google, as always, did not disappoint. I got multiple suggestions of oils and scents. After my finals, as I was preparing to leave for Mali, I went to Whole Foods and bought two bottles of scent, rose and lavender, which I had the women try out upon my arrival.
Since I have arrived, soap has been my main focus. To improve the quality of the soap and help the rape survivors sell 50000 bars of soap both locally and in the United States were one of the many instructions that I have been given by Iain in my work plan.
I remember that when I brought the scents to the center for the first time, everyone came out to witness the new addition I was making to the soap making process. The director, Assaita, the woman who is in charge of the soap making, Awa, the project assistant and the beneficiaries were all gathered to see this new addition to the process. They were all curious like me to see whether the scents I brought from the United States would make the soap smell better. We first tried two tablespoons in the mix, but the smell of the Shea butter was still strong. We tried up to five tablespoons, but that did not work either. I ended up pouring the entire bottles of rose and lavender into the mix, but the result was the same. The Shea butter smell was still dominant.
When the fragrance samples that I brought with me failed to improve the smell of the soap, I proposed that we look into local scents and oils. We bought five different scents at one of the biggest markets in Bamako. We tried them and three out of five scents gave a good result. We had desperately needed something that would make the soap smell other than the original Shea butter smell.
The successful addition of fragrance to the soap brought everybody together. Siaka, the president of Sini Sanuman who got a call from the Sylla the director of the center left the office that day to come see the new soap. Awa, some animators, and all the beneficiaries passed around the cups containing the soap with the new formula. That day, while I never cared much for natural science before, I found myself feeling like a scientist who has found a cure for a disease.
I have been successful at improving the smell using local perfumes, and I am now on the path of acquiring better-designed molds and other equipment utilized in the production of the soap. Also, I am working on putting shelves in the storage room where all the ingredients are kept so they can be maintained in order and off the floor where not only do they collect dirt but also have little insects get into them. My vision for the storage room is that one part of the storage would have shelves where the soap can be kept to dry instead of being kept in the molds on the floor, and another side where all the ingredients would be kept to ensure they remain clean.
I also hope to hold a meeting with the director, Assaita, and the beneficiaries next week to talk about the importance of sanitation in the making of the soap. In order to make sure that the quality of the soap remains high, it is going to require the women to wash, dry, and store away the equipment after use.
I have improved the smell of the soap, and I don’t want to come back!
Posted By Rose Twagirumukiza
Posted Sep 29th, 2017