How Rukasudi’s Soap Making Project is Empowering Women in Uganda

For Kate Akol, a single mother in Uganda, learning to make soap was pivotal in achieving financial independence and securing a better future for her daughter. Kate is one of the 325 women participants of the Soap Making Training Project hosted by Rukasudi, a skills training organization based in Kampala, Uganda. Rukasudi aims to enable communities to identify their challenges and encourage Building an Economically Sustainable Tomorrow (BEST) through skills training initiatives and entrepreneurship. Their programs range from baking, tailoring, hairdressing, and horticulture farming to group savings and even sports. In Uganda, a country where a significant portion of women remain underrepresented in economic activities, Rukasudi is empowering women with income-generating skills and offering the tools to launch their own business ventures. 

Empowering Women Through Skills Development

The Soap Making Project, advanced by a grant from GPFD’s Grassroots Community-Led Development (GCLD) Fund, was launched to empower 500 women by teaching them soap making skills and enabling them to sell their products locally for profit. This initiative equips women with valuable skills, promoting their financial independence and economic stability. So far, the project has successfully trained 325 women. Participants benefit from follow-up sessions to supplement their learning and have access to Rukasudi’s Skills Center, which provides bar soap equipment to streamline production and minimize exposure to hazardous chemicals. In addition, many participants have successfully tapped into high local demand for soap, establishing customer bases with schools, local businesses, and fellow community members.

Creating a Sense of Community 

“As a leader at Rukasudi, the soap project has enabled me to reach out to the most vulnerable, marginalized, or overlooked women and youth by actively empowering them with skills in soap making for liquid and bar soap,” says Naome Rukhombe, Executive Director of Rukasudi. The project has created self-employment and social partnerships, enhancing women’s entrepreneurial skills in soap production and marketing. The training sessions have also become a networking environment enhanced by teamwork and growing friendships among women and youths. More than just an income-generating initiative, the project has improved hygiene standards in the area by making soap more easily available within the community and at the household level. 

Skills Training that Delivers Impact

The ripple effects of empowering women through skills training extend beyond economic stability. Women are given the opportunity to independently and confidently identify their challenges while being provided with the tools to seek the best path forward and develop solutions on their own. For Kate Akol and her daughter, Lillian, Rukasudi has not only offered a newfound economic avenue, it has also allowed them to tackle their challenges head-on while building a stronger bond in the process. “My daughter and I earn a good profit from the soap,” says Kate. “From the profits, we are then able to restock chemicals for continued soap production.” Additionally, making soap more easily accessible within households will significantly improve personal hygiene, cleanliness, and reduce the spread of illness in the long run.

The Ripple Effects of Empowering Women

Rukasudi’s Soap Making initiative has united women from various peri-urban locations, creating a supportive community across different ages and backgrounds. “Every time I return from school I help my mother sell the liquid soap,” says Ashaba Daniela, a young participant. “We use the money to buy basic household items and with the balance Mummy goes to town to buy other soap making chemicals.” Research suggests the importance of financial independence for women, revealing that it not only improves their households’ economic stability but also ensures better health, education, and nutrition for their children. Rukasudi’s Soap Making Project is a prime example of grassroots, community-led initiatives where women are equipped with the tools and confidence to seek their own financial independence to lead and invest in brighter futures.

Looking to the Future

Rukasudi aims to expand its Soap Making Project to continue empowering women across Kampala, Rukungiri, and Kanungu. Rukasudi has about 60 women groups who live in these districts that are in dire need of skills training opportunities. The organization intends to provide participants with direct access to raw materials and proficient soap making equipment to reduce production time and minimize health risks. Furthermore,  Naome hopes to one day have better learning equipment for the Rukasudi Skills Center, especially new tailoring machines and hairdressing equipment. In addition, the center is in need of improved sanitary facilities for the women and children participating in skills training sessions.

GPFD’s Grassroots Community-Led Development Fund

Global Partners launched its Grassroots Community-Led Development Fund to directly support grassroots organizations in East Africa. All organizations supported by the Fund are led by East Africans who are implementing sustainable, impactful, and innovative solutions to public health and educational challenges in their own communities. We believe local people have the right and the insight to drive change in their own communities, and the GCLD Fund enables them to strengthen and scale their work. Our 45-plus year history working with East African leaders and groups has taught us that local people have the knowledge and trust of their communities, but they seldom have access to sufficient funding. We aim to change this.

Learn more about the impact of GPFD’s Grassroots Community-Led Development Fund in our journal updates!

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