Windhoek — Katutura Soap Project that helps HIV-positive mothers in Namibia to make a living has grown from strength to strength.
From the beginning of June, five women have been producing soaps and generating income for themselves.
Katutura Soap Project is located at Mount Sinai Centre. It started in March 2010 and was founded by volunteers who taught unemployed women to make soap.
Some of the women who participate in the Katutura Soap Project have previously been the beneficiaries of Mount Sinai Centre that helps HIV-positive mothers to keep their babies healthy.
One of the beneficiaries, Maria Ndjigwa, has been working in the Katutura Soap Project for over a year now.
"I like being part of the soap project, because the field has good possibilities to grow in the future. Before I joined the programme, I was a beneficiary of Mount Sinai Centre, where I learnt to bake bread and cookies that I sold at schools. Now I work there only as a volunteer and teach the other women," Ndjigwa said.
Katutura Soap Project uses local and ecologically sound products.
One of the founders of the project, Maarika Hoppula, says all the raw materials used in soap making are sourced from Namibia.
"When the project started, we used to buy olive oil from supermarkets, which could have been brought, for example, from Spain or Italy. But later, the International Women's Association of Namibia got interested in the project and donated one jug of olive oil produced in Swakopmund. Since then, all the ingredients come from Namibia," Hoppula explained.
Hoppula says that through the project women have experimented with new ingredients and formulas to make soap.
Right now they use olive oil and mahangu, which is a common ingredient also on the Namibian dining table.
Also, all the packing materials are recycled: the project makes use of, for example, empty bottles obtained from restaurants.
Hoppula says at the beginning of the project, women made about 10 bars of soap a day, but now the number is 120.
They produce mainly two kinds of soap - gift soap and smaller guesthouse soap they try to sell to hotels.
"We put our hope especially in guesthouse soap. There are a lot of hotels in Namibia, and if we can get them excited about the Katutura Soap Project, it would offer a lot of possibilities for women in the future," Hoppula says.
According to Hoppula, many hotels prefer mass-produced soaps from South Africa, because they are cheaper, a bit over N$1 per bar.
Hand-made soap from Katutura Soap Project costs N$5 per bar. Hoppula hopes that the hotels could look at the quality of the soap and not just the price.
"Even though the price is a bit higher, it also brings work for many Namibians, because all the participants and ingredients are from Namibia. We are happy for the help that associations and people have given us to develop the programme up till now," Hoppula concludes.