Soapmakers of Samabogo: soap and solidarity create the recipe for female empowerment in Mali

Posted by
Anna France Williams
14 May 2019
Girls and women
WaterAid/Guilhem Alandry

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WaterAid is celebrating the achievements of women by launching a powerful short film about a female-led soap-making group in Mali. The film, which premiered in London at Shorts on Tap’s film screening on 8 May, features a trailblazing co-operative whose microfinance business has created jobs, increased women’s confidence and independence and improved community well-being.  

A quarter of Malians – around 4.5 million people – live without access to clean water, and two-thirds – over 12 million people – have no decent toilets. Women and children are particularly affected, with many walking long distances every day to collect water, which limits their ability to get an education or work and earn money. 

The revolutionary Soapmakers of Samabogo in Mali are changing this story. With the support of players of People’s Postcode Lottery, WaterAid has been working with the collective to provide clean water, hygiene training and sanitation facilities, training the women in business, finance and literacy so that they can earn a decent income from producing the soap.

Soap is crucial for maintaining good hygiene practices, helping prevent disease, which in turn helps to boost children’s nutrition and keep them strong and healthy. When groups are supported to produce soap, it becomes more affordable and so more people are able to use it.

The 30 members of the Kanuya Cooperative in Samabogo meet weekly in their green uniforms under the shade of trees behind a local church, singing as they stir the pots of soap and shea butter. They pay a fee to join and are trained in co-operative management as well as business plan development and micro-loan granting. By lending out their profits the women are able to build their business as well as support the members, creating a brighter future for themselves, their families and future generations.

54-year-old Ruth Diallo, who chairs the soapmakers’ collective, says:

"I think that when a woman joins this group, she feels empowered. The empowerment of women in this village is very important because when a woman is empowered, when you are independent, you can do many things for yourself." 

The oldest group member, Dania Sogoboa, 67, shares:

“Thanks to the group, there is a connection between the women of the village. We also talk to other villages about our expertise. We discuss together how we can develop ourselves. I was alone, but now I have people to talk to. When I have a problem I can get a loan to resolve it and then later, when I have the money, I can repay it.” 

Karia Coulibaly, 60, is also part of the soapmakers’ collective. She explains how the group and the arrival of clean water has made a difference to the lives of the villagers:

“Being part of the group has opened my mind and helped me to learn a lot, like how to do business and gain benefits from it. We no longer go to the market to buy soap as we make it ourselves here. With the availability of drinking water at the tap, the village is now much cleaner. People no longer use the water from the wells. We have witnessed a reduction in illnesses.”  

Laura Chow, Head of Charities at People’s Postcode Lottery said:

“We are delighted that players of People’s Postcode Lottery have been able to support this innovative women’s project in Mali and to have an impact on the lives of people in some of the world’s poorest communities. Empowering women has a ripple effect on society, making it more equal and more prosperous for everyone. Players should feel proud to be playing a role in helping unlock people’s potential.”

Tim Wainwright, Chief Executive of WaterAid said:

“I met the Samabogo women’s group when I was recently in Mali and was struck by the women’s camaraderie as they went about their work. All ages were working together for a common purpose and I was delighted to be invited to make soap with them.

“Once a clean water source arrives in a community, women and girls’ time is freed to take up other opportunities – including the possibility of earning additional income for the family. Soap making not only helps provide a bit of extra money but also helps maximise the impact of clean water by encouraging good hygiene. This in turn helps whole communities to thrive.”

The Soapmakers of Samabogo film premiered at Shorts on Tap’s Reality Check event on Wednesday 8 May in East London.

Supported by players of People's Postcode Lottery

The Soapmakers of Samabogo project is supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery, who have raised more than £10 million for WaterAid since 2013. This is transforming millions of lives across Sub-Saharan Africa and contributing to WaterAid’s vision of a world where everyone, everywhere has access to clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene. 


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Notes to Editors:

People’s Postcode Lottery  

  • People’s Postcode Lottery manages multiple society lotteries promoted by different charities and good causes. People play with their chosen postcodes for a chance to win cash prizes. A minimum of 32% from each subscription goes directly to charities and good causes across Great Britain and internationally -- players have raised £404 million so far. For details of the charities and good causes which are promoting and benefitting from the lottery draws, please visit 
  • It costs £10 a month to play and winning postcodes are announced every day. The maximum amount a single ticket can win is 10% of the draw proceeds, subject to a maximum of £400,000. For details, please visit 
  • New players can sign up to pay using direct debit by calling 0808 10 9 8 7 6 5. New players who sign up online at can pay using direct debit, debit card or PayPal. 
  • Postcode Lottery Limited is regulated by the Gambling Commission under licence numbers: 000-000829-N-102511 and 000-000829-R-102513. Registered office: Titchfield House, 69/85 Tabernacle Street, London, EC2A 4RR 
  • Follow us @PostcodePress

WaterAid and People’s Postcode Lottery

  • Since 2013, players of People’s Postcode Lottery have supported WaterAid’s work with more than £10m. This support is transforming millions of lives across Sub-Saharan Africa and contributing to WaterAid’s vision of a world where everyone, everywhere has access to these basic human rights.
  • WaterAid is a direct beneficiary of People’s Postcode Lottery which means it has its own society lottery, promoted by People’s Postcode Lottery.
  • In 2018, there were three draws of People’s Postcode Lottery linked to WaterAid, raising nearly £3m to take clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene to communities across Sub-Saharan Africa.


WaterAid’s vision is of a world where everyone has access to clean water and sanitation. The international not-for-profit organisation works in 28 countries to change the lives of the poorest and most marginalised people. Since 1981, WaterAid has reached 26.4 million people with clean water and 26.3 million people with decent toilets. For more information, visit, follow @WaterAidUK or @WaterAidPress on Twitter, or visit us on Facebook at

  • 844 million people in the world – one in nine – do not have clean water close to home.[1]

  • 2.3 billion people in the world – almost one in three – do not have a decent toilet of their own.[2]

  • Around 289,000 children under five die every year from diarrhoeal diseases caused by poor water and sanitation. That's more than 800 children a day, or one child every two minutes.[3]

  • Every £1 invested in water and toilets returns an average of £4 in increased productivity.[4]

  • Just £15 can provide one person with clean water.[5]

  • To find out if countries are keeping their promises on water and sanitation, see the online database


[1] WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) Progress on drinking water, sanitation and hygiene: 2017 update and SDG Baselines

[2] WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) Progress on drinking water, sanitation and hygiene: 2017 update and SDG Baselines


[4] World Health organization (2012) Global costs and benefits of drinking-water supply and sanitation interventions to reach the MDG target and universal coverage