Last February, Alain, and Christine visited women in Senegal to discover their facilities and methods of making soap and to help them develop their business. These inspiring women welcomed them with open arms and greatly appreciated the time that was offered to them. Find out more about their collaboration in this exclusive interview with Christine, Head of Research and Development, who discusses her rewarding experience.
Back to Senegal
Mission and community life
What was the purpose of your visit to Senegal?
Our mission was to visit women cooperatives and examine their facilities to better understand their realities and their challenges facing the production of soap bars. Our primary goal was to offer tips and suggestions for improving their finished products.
Which organization did you choose to help?
We have been with Carrefour International to visit the cooperatives of UNFCS, the National Union of Women Cooperators of Senegal.
How would you describe the living and working conditions of these women?
Their situations are quite different compared to here in Canada. They work very hard for the success of their business, in addition to caring for their families.
How were you welcomed? What were your first impressions?
We had an extremely warm welcome. The women were very proud to receive us and grateful that we took the time to visit them. They welcomed us in their families and we were lucky enough to be served traditional food. In general, we had the opportunity to communicate with them in French, because in the region, many speak only one language: Wolof.
What types of cosmetics are they producing?
UNFCS women specialize in the production of vegetable oil soap bars and Mbeurbeuf, which acts as an antiseptic agent. In addition, they produce lip balm, body balm, hair ointment, and liquid soap.
What are the main ingredients they work with?
They use local vegetable oils, such as palm and baobab oil, beeswax and local plants.
What methods do they use for the production of their cosmetics?
The cooperatives that we visited are equipped with the minimum necessary equipment for their production. For example, only one scale, pots, molds, and chopping tables are present in their facilities. The Mboro Regional Union (UR) is the only place to have an extruder, a machine that improves the consistency and presentation of the finished product.
Where do they sell their cosmetics? Are prices similar to those in Canada?
Soaps are sold by members of Unions in local markets and in some pharmacies. The soaps are sold between 500 and 600 CFA, so between $ 1.15 and $ 1.38 Canadian.
Exchange and training
What level of involvement did you have during this collaboration?
First of all, we visited the Regional Unions to discover their facilities and manufacturing methods to evaluate the best way to contribute to the improvement of their finished products. Then we set up national training sessions to identify their needs. This led us to provide training on manufacturing methods, quality control procedures, marketing and suggestions for new products that can be made from local ingredients.
Have you found any ingredients that you could use here in Canada? If yes, which ones?
Yes, we are delighted to have met some farmers of vegetable oils, such as baobab oil, moringa and Toulououna oil.
Will a link be maintained to offer continued support to these women in Senegal?
Yes, we keep in touch with these women and they know that we are available at all times to answer their questions. We hope to receive them among us in the near future to maintain our relationship.
Do you have any funny moments to share with us?
Women have shown us the importance of celebrating the small victories of life by dancing and singing. So we danced with them and Alain even invented the Dauphin's dance!
What were some of you takeaway moments from your time in Senegal?
What hit me more than anything was the fact that people really take the time to live in the present moment and make connections with those around them. It is very important for them to take the time to talk to a neighbor, a friend, a family member or even a stranger.
What would you like to see for the future of their business?
We hope that more and more women entrepreneurs will use their creativity to expand the diversity of their products with local ingredients.
How would you describe your experience?
Our experience was very rewarding and beneficial, both from a professional and personal standpoint. We gave them the right motivation, the confidence that everything is possible and the assurance that making products with local ingredients is both plausible and profitable.