I crossed the border to Uganda 9 years ago with my family to escape from the civil war in my home country, Democratic Republic of Congo. My grandfather, who once was an excellent sewing worker, searched for a job to make a living while transitioning to our new home in Uganda. However, he was often rejected from job opportunities just because he was a refugee and a disabled person. What made him suffer the most wasn’t his physical limitation, but the prejudice against him that refugees with disabilities are not capable of doing anything.
There are 120,000 refugees in Nakivale refugee settlement. Among those, 2 out of 10 are physically disabled. Refugees with disabilities are suffering from economic and social difficulties, but as they are marginalized and underserved by the government. They often feel hopeless and desperate in their situations where it is even hard to find a dream of the future.
“Why does disability become an obstacle to their dreams?”
So I decided to work for the refugees with disabilities who are full of potential. While I was looking for things that they can do, I came up with the idea of making soaps out of goat milk, which are often just thrown away. I started soap making projects with them and since then, Gosoapy has made its debut.
Gosoapy holds workshops to train the refugees with disabilities about making soaps.Physical challenges do not matter in the process of mixing goat milk, lyre and other materials and making soaps. Those who completed the skills training are now working in our company and dreaming of a sustainable future.
Gosoapy is selling goat milk soaps made by the refugees with disabilities to Ugandans and tourists. And some of them are distributed to neglected women in the settlement. I was delighted to hear that our soaps are becoming essential items preventing COVID-19 in our local communities.
“I became more reliable for economic empowerment on my own, with soap making skills I learned through Gosoapy Workshops. I used to be a person who always needed help, but now I’m a person who can help others.”
-Participants of Gosoapy workshop, Rukundo Francoise-
There are still unsolved challenges and obstacles to overcome in Gosoapy. We are making soaps with buckets and kettles without any technical equipment. As our soaps are all hand-crafted, it is difficult to meet the increasing demand with our current production process. We are trying to come up with more efficient, less time consuming yet high quality products. Also we are renting a small space in which we might be asked to leave anytime.
However, we won’t just stop here. In the future, we will set up our own work space to reach an annual goal of producing 5,000 soaps in better quality, contributing to the pandemic situation at the same time. We are also going to work for refugees with disabilities to provide them with training as well as jobs. All these changes could begin only with your support.