Category Archives: Empowering Women

Sewing A Brighter Future

Inocencia Gomez is a strong woman with a happy spirit and a loving heart. This mother of five children operates a sewing business – creating sheets, curtains, furniture and much more for her community – and sells beauty products on the side.

Hard work has brought this woman a life she loves, but she has not always experienced such happiness.

With the first loan from Esperanza of only $45 dollars, she took the reins of her business and became the author of her own success. The capital enabled Inocencia to buy whole rolls of cloth for the first time, which greatly increased the efficiency of her business and the value of her products.

Over the course of twelve years and with the help of twenty loans, Inocencia continued working and growing her company. She increased her creditworthiness enough to buy a motorcycle, which allowed her to sell her handicrafts in multiple locations including a nearby beach for tourists.

With each loan, Inocencia’s business improved. She bought new equipment and higher quality fabrics, making her business one of the premier sewing operations in her community.

With each improvement came increased profitability, enabling Inocencia to provide a better life for herself and her family. “Now I can buy my food without credit. I’m much better because, with Esperanza, I’ve remodeled my house. Look at the little kitchen I’ve started.”

Inocencia even has enough money to help others in her community, often helping to pay for funerals for those whose families cannot afford them.

As for her future, Inocencia has high hopes for her and her children. “I always hope to live better than how I live now and to help my children live a better life than I had.”

A Block Party

Carmen was our last interview at the end of a long week – a week filled with early mornings at sunrise, action-packed afternoons, late evening dinners and debriefings. Not to mention that every woman we had sat down with up to this point had extraordinary stories to tell, which led us to ask the question… “Is every story we hear going to be powerful and emotional?”

I’m not going to answer that quite yet, at least not until I share more about Carmen.

As you walk into Carmen’s house, the first thing you’ll notice is how meticulously clean it is. The floors? Spotless. The walls? Pristine-ly decorated. The furniture? Rather exquisite. But then we were greeted by Carmen – with a big hug and a kiss on the cheek. Her smile radiated throughout the room and made everything else seem, well, unnecessary. She was so excited to meet us and even more excited to be hosting us in her home. Her excitement and enthusiasm spread through our team like wildfire and made me feel like this was the first interview of the week!

Before I could explain too much, Carmen grabbed my hand and said: “Let me show you my businesses.” Businesses? As in plural? Sure enough, she walked us a short way up the street and showed us a block of stores. She said, “These are mine.”

Three separate stores. And big ones, too. One was all about footwear. Any Nike or Adidas shoe you can think of, she sells it. Next door is a colmado, or convenience store, and finally, there’s a motorcycle repair shop. Now she doesn’t manage these all herself – her son helps run the stores and her grandchildren help out too. In fact, when I asked to purchase a couple gallon jug of water, her 10-year-old grandson jumped in and explained to me that that was his job. He took me around to the spot where they kept the filled jugs – keys in hand – and retrieved one for me. I asked him if I could carry it back to Carmen’s house but he wouldn’t give it up. He insisted he is the one to carry it there.

Now back to Carmen. After getting to witness her entire block of businesses in action, I was eager to learn more. Did she always have these? How has her journey influenced her family? And most importantly, how has the partnership with Esperanza empowered her to do more?

Learn more about our mission at soaphope.com/mission

La Jefa (The Boss)

Sometimes you come across someone that is so impressive you want to spend every moment you can with them. Not to simply chat or to just be around just for the sake of it – but rather to learn, hanging on every word they say and every action they take. Andrea is that someone. Within moments we realized she was La Jefa or the boss.

Every month there are conferences around the world that showcase politicians, activists, and business leaders that have incredible stories and experiences that make people want to listen to them for hours. Well, I’d go so far as to say that Andrea’s story or her presence could command any stage – and I didn’t want to just listen to her for hours, I could have listened for days!

You see, Andrea isn’t just a great great grandmother (that’s not a typo), active business consultant and owner of a fishing empire, she literally runs her community. And she does it in a way that’s powerful and strong, but also entirely humble. You could tell in each interaction she had with a family member, employee, neighbor, or client that they both loved and respected her dearly. Someone doesn’t get both of those unless they know how to lead – and lead well.

While sitting down with Andrea I was a bit surprised at how much she had to say. From sharing about her family to telling us about her journey as a business owner, I felt that unique feeling that many interviewers get. It’s that “I feel like I’ve known you for so long” feeling. Her tone was warm but her words were firm, not shying away from the harsher moments of her story.

The greatest moment, for me at least, came at the end as Andrea shared what she is most proud of in her life. She paused for a moment, took a look outside at her great-grandchildren and that proceeded to tell us her how she is most proud about the fact that she has provided an example for her great-grandchildren of the importance of hard work, serving others, and perseverance.

What’s next for Andrea? She plans to go back to school and get a degree. Considering what she’s already accomplished, that should be no problem for Andrea. After all, she is La Jefa.

Learn more about our mission at soaphope.com/mission 

The Rest Stop

Mrs. Ana Nuez and her family were supported by the vegetable garden that her father planted in El Limón, Samaná. A friend of the family who made trips for foreigners showed this space as a tourist attraction where, in addition to selling their home-grown produce, they talked about Dominican agriculture and the process of planting and harvesting.

In 2003 his friend gave them the idea of making a “Rest Stop,” where they offered other attractions to tourists. One of Ana’s brothers
invested his savings to make a place next to his house and so they could grow in a modest but determined way.

In 2006, a friend invited Ana to join a group of women who were going to opt for group loans and training for their business with Esperanza. Her first loan of $125 was approved, and Ana received courses in customer service, how to create handicrafts with coconut, and business administration. With the money she earned through the stop, Ana was able to buy the merchandise they needed to expand their offering of products and services while paying down the family’s debt.

Today, after 26 loans and more than $ 8,000.00 dollars disbursed, Ana and her family have 3 ranches and are planning to open their 4th. They offer an extensive variety of products to tourists such as Noni Oil, cocoa butter, cacao facial cream, coffee, handmade tobacco, local crafts, mamajuana, moringa tea, among others – all produced by themselves or by their community.

Ana and her family dream of continuing to grow. As a visionary entrepreneur, she plans to make a Coconut Tour -showing the process of creating her coconut-based products – and to expand their food services to offer more Dominican cuisine to visiting tourists. Through her business, Ana seeks to continue to help her community prosper and provide better opportunities for study and growth for her children.

Learn more about our mission at soaphope.com/mission 

Breastfeeding: Why It is Important and Everyone Should Support

As a new mom of eight months breastfeeding was extremely tough for me and my body didn’t want to cooperate. Even though I struggled, I really wanted to breastfeed because I knew how important it was to my new baby girl. While there are so many challenges to breastfeeding, one big one is making sure those around you are supportive and that the environment and communities you are exposed to support breastfeeding. Our offices have a room dedicated to allowing a woman to breastfeed or take care of her child. Remember children are our futures. Since this is National Breastfeeding Month, it’s a great time to talk about how we can support this life-giving effort.

Like I said, breastfeeding is challenging. It may seem like it should come naturally, but just like any new thing, breastfeeding takes time, practice, and support for both mom and baby.

Breastfeeding is good for both mom and baby – research shows it can reduce the risk of chronic diseases for both. Breast milk is the safest, most nutrient-rich food for babies and can provide lifelong health benefits. It also strengthens the bond between mom and baby. It also helps the social and emotional development of babies. On a bigger picture – breastfeeding creates stronger, healthier communities. It is also the eco-friendly and economical solution.

So now how can you support a breastfeeding momma?

In the Home

Breastfeeding is more successful when family members are involved. When your family supports you and encourages you and provides you the solitude time you need to bond it builds a stronger foundation for breastfeeding. Family can also help with chores, take the baby out for a while so the new mom can sleep. Also help supply a mother with the needed vitamins and supplements.

Social Settings

Along with offers to help as needed, friends can be a big support by just listening and making sure their homes are welcoming to a new mom. There are community groups, but friends are the best. Provide advice, guidance, support, and a snack or two. Maybe even gift her a nurturing life gift box by Motherlove to show you care.

Clinics and Services

Health care providers are important and provide support to a new breastfeeding mom. They give their wealth of experience and guide the new mother when challenges occur. Like in my instance I needed that type of guidance and it helped. I also learned about More Milk Plus and it became my hero supplement.

Public Spaces

Be it in a mall, restaurant, pool or park all mothers have a right to breastfeed their children and the community they live in should support that too. Accept breastfeeding as a normal way for women to feed their babies and know that it is not indecent, but a beautiful and nourishing necessity. Create a safe, secure, supportive environment for women to breastfeed.

Again we all play a role in supporting breastfeeding mom’s. Think about your own behaviors and how you can protect, promote, and support breastfeeding women and babies in your community all year round, not just National Breastfeeding Month.

 

Aging Naturally

Aging has a negative connotation for many people. It means more doctors’ visits, frailty, wrinkles, fatigue, and sickness. However, it doesn’t have to be like that. We can incorporate steps into our daily routine for better aging and health naturally. These tips are basic needs we should be utilizing; food, water, sleep, and relaxation. While we have no control over our genes, we certainly have control over these! Remember you are beautiful and aging is part of that beauty!

Anti-Aging Foods

Don’t put that dark chocolate down, it’s actually good for you. Eating a healthy amount actually slows aging. Cacao, which is that bitter taste, is the healthy part of the chocolate.  Nuts lower the risk for type 2 diabetes and heart disease due to the amount of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. What kind of nut works? They all do. If you’re not much of a nut or have allergies, then avocados are a good substitute to consider. Bone broth offers many needed minerals, salmon improves blood circulation with astaxanthin, figs are packed with flavonoids. Those are just some of the foods that will keep you healthy and young. Some others include; mushrooms, maca, blueberries, watermelon, green tea, pomegranates and much more. Many of these would make excellent snacks to give your afternoon a sweet kick.

Sleep

It’s starting to become common knowledge that a stable sleep cycle can help many aspects of people’s health. There are many people who don’t get enough sleep, or whose sleep schedule is erratic. A consistent sleep schedule can help the body recharge. Sleep is when our bodies have a chance to repair damage inside and out. One of those damages is daily stress, which, if left to grow, can accelerate the aging process. The best target range is around 7-9 hours. Missing that target every once in a while is fine, but even too much sleep can be detrimental to your health. If getting to sleep becomes difficult, then consider using lavender to help you calm down.

Hydrate

Did you know cells shrivel up when dehydrated? It’s sort of gross, but animal cells don’t do well when left without moisture for too long. When our cells are hydrated, they work more efficiently. This means your system is working faster and keeping your skin plump, and that can lead to fewer wrinkles as well as happy cells. 2 liters over the course of a day is a commonly recommended amount, but if you exercise you may want to raise the amount after a workout. Balance is the key because drinking too much can also be harmful.

Relax

Managing stress is just as important to keeping a youthful glow as fighting off free radicals. Traditional stress reducers include exercise, meditation, tea, and talking. Green tea is already an anti-aging drink. If you’re out at the moment, Yogi offers a Green Tea Super Antioxidant that’s made specifically to fight free radicals. If you’re not a big tea drinker, you can meditate to help center yourself. It’s as simple as finding a comfortable spot, putting on some calming music/sounds, and clearing your mind. I’m an exercise person myself, being a little too restless to meditate. A good walk with my puppy is how I wind down for the day. I find myself feeling the best when friends join me, and we just chat about mindless things. Being able to talk about unimportant matters is what helps me find my center. We don’t have to solve problems we bring up , we’re just listening. That’s another natural way to lower stress. Slow down for a chat with a friend, not to talk about world problems or deep worries. Talk about a sale you’ve seen or a cute animal video. Remind each other of a funny event, or share interesting facts you’ve learned that week.

A Mission with Good Returns

Meet Kyle one of our mission mangers here at Soap Hope. Kyle’s passion for helping us reach our mission of lifting women and their families out of extreme poverty can be seen in the little details to big scale projects.

How does a customer’s purchase drive an opportunity for a woman to be lifted out of poverty?
At Soap Hope we invest 100% of profits into programs and organizations that sustainably help women lift themselves out of poverty.  Currently, the organizations use Soap Hope’s investment to provide crucial, short term loans to women starting their own businesses so that they can grow and generate income for themselves and their families. When you empower women and enable them to generate their own income data shows that they are far more likely than men to use that income to invest in their communities and children’s education. This means that our investments don’t just help lift the women out of poverty but actually build the foundation to break the cycle of poverty for entire communities.

How do you pick your partners?
Relationships followed by due diligence. Salah (CEO) and I served on the board of a large nonprofit here in Dallas that funded global organizations specially focused on empowering women. Through our roles on the board we were able to develop relationships with numerous organizations and take a deep look at their management teams, mission statements, and processes. At Soap Hope you’ll notice our focus on sustainability – from the products we sell to our packaging – and our impact partners are no different. We seek out partners that are investing in long-term solutions to poverty rather than simply treating the symptoms.

Have you been to meet the women?
Oh yes! I had the privilege to visit one of the partner organizations in the Dominican Republic and meet several of the women (they refer to them as associates) in Santo Domingo.

What was that like?
Inspiring and challenging. Woman after woman that I met told stories of courage, perseverance, and a deep love for their families that kept them going through the toughest situations. I remember one woman in particular. When I asked her how her loans impacted her life she pointed at a one story home that had 3 children playing outside and said “It gave me a house, but more importantly it gave me the opportunity to provide a life for my grandchildren that I never had.”

What drives you every day to do this work?
Meeting the women truly challenged me and allowed me to experience the potential of what we are doing at Soap Hope. Every loan matters because every life matters and the ripple effect that can be felt in the community from just one empowered woman is so powerful. Take Maria, who felt called to start a school within her community for those who otherwise would have no access to proper education. Today she has over 100 children in her classrooms and has graduates who now serve in the government, are doctors and lawyers, and raising children of their own. To know that by simply selling our products those types of outcomes can be achieved gets me fired up… and that’s why I do the work I do.

Learn more about our mission.

Stories of Hope: Pastora

From our latest stories of hope at Soap Hope, we learn about Pastora – the King of Refrigeration.

A born entrepreneur, Pastora’s story of hope began a few years ago. Pastora ran a small business selling food items to members of her community in the Dominican Republic. However, without the capital to make repairs and ensure the safety of her food supply, she was forced to close down her business.

In 2007, Pastora’s life changed when she obtained her first loan of 7,000 Dominican Pesos (about $185 USD) from Esperanza International and opened a tiny ‘tienda’, or shop, selling shoes.

Esperanza: Creating Stories of Hope

Esperanza’s mission is to eliminate poverty in the Dominican Republic. Their approach is to provide more than just financial support. They also support their microfinance loan recipients with education, training, health, and hygiene services.

Esperanza’s mission to help children and families facing poverty pairs perfectly with our mission at Soap Hope. Today, our partnership is fruitful and thriving, as evidenced by other stories of hope like that of Bienvenida.

As a result of the partnership between Soap Hope, Esperanza, and You, we are able to impact the lives of women around the world – women like Pastora.

The Rest of Pastora’s Story

Pastora in her refrigerator repair shop.Pastora has a knack for understanding the needs of her community. She has been able to adjust her business model to the changing demands of her customers and the resources available to her.

She still recalls closing her first venture due to food spoilage – a huge problem for businesses in the hot climate of the Dominican Republic. That’s why Pastora decided to open a shoe business with her loan, a product that would not have to contend with the Dominican heat.

A few years after opening her tienda selling shoes, Pastora expanded her lines of business to sell refrigeration repair equipment. Today, “The King Refrigeracion” is thriving, and Pastora has more plans to expand in the future.

In addition to the loans Pastora received to launch and grow her businesses, she has benefited from other services provided through Esperanza — benefits like dental and health insurance for her family —  things that would otherwise be difficult to come by in her area.

Pastora also loves attending the business trainings that Esperanza organizes near her home. She is thankful to the organization for providing her with “abrir una puerta para trabajar,” or, “an open door to work.”

A Partnership of Hope

Esperanza is committed to alleviating poverty in and around the Dominican Republic. Soap Hope is dedicated to lifting women from poverty through organizations like Esperanza. Together, we are able to impact the lives of women like Pastora. But we can only do it with you.

A single bar of soap can fund a woman’s business for two days. Imagine how many days you could fund simply by skipping the store and purchasing all of your body care and house cleaning products online at Soap Hope.

When we make the choice as business owners and consumers to direct our money into world-changing social causes, we write a new chapter in the stories of hope for women who may not have had a chance to escape poverty otherwise.

Esperanza, Soap Hope, and You – making the greatest impact, together. What stories of hope will you write today?

Stories of Hope: Ramya and Rani

Ramya Elayaraja and Rani Murugesan are two stories of hope from Milaap’s microfinance program in India.

Ramya heads up a group of women who manufacture and sell homemade masala powder out of their homes in the village of Koothur, India. Rani also runs a home based business selling sundries like soaps, shampoos, and facial powders.

The masala business is comprised of five women, all of whom work other jobs during the day, and all of whom received microloans to launch their own business. After their regular daily jobs are complete, the women gather at Rani’s house to roast, grind, blend, and package the masala powder.

When it comes time to blend a new batch of masala, raw ingredients for the powder are purchased from local grocers. A single batch of masala powder can bring the business about four months’ worth of sales revenue. This is how Ramya uses her funds from Milaap to build her business month after month.

Organic Garam Masala

GROWING A MASALA BUSINESS

Word has spread about their masala powder, and the success of the business is growing. The women report that people are now coming from several blocks away as word of mouth spreads into the community. On the crowded streets of India, this type of growing publicity is no small feat.

The Village of Koothur is located in a metro area with more than one million people, 25% of whom live in the slums in and around the city. Ramya and the other women running the masala business, however, have impressively managed to grow and expand a small business under harsh economic conditions.

Demand ebbs and flows, but the women are happy to report that the five of them currently take home at least 1,000 Indian Rupees per month from the venture. The additional income of their masala business has a tremendous and transformative impact on the community where these women live and work.

Indian Food

MILAAP MAKES IT POSSIBLE

Milaap has a unique approach to microlending. Their mission is to make lending “personal, transparent, and sustainable.” These qualities make Milaap an ideal mission partner for Soap Hope. Together we are able to work to eliminate poverty, empower women, and support education where it is most needed, and often the hardest to come by.

All Soap Hope profits, 100% of them, are committed for a full year of service towards lifting women from poverty worldwide through organizations like Milaap. By partnering with microfinance experts like Milaap, we are able to impact the lives of even more women around the world than if we were to do the work on our own.

Your purchases at Soap Hope empower women like Ramya and Rani. It only takes one bar of soap from Soap Hope to fund a woman’s business for 2 days, and a bottle of laundry soap will fund a business for 7 days. Together, we create a lasting impact on the lives of women.

Looking for a quick and easy way to spice up your next meal? Try this DIY recipe for garam masala, courtesy of the Organic Authority:

Ingredients

  • 2 Tablespoons cumin
  • 1 Tablespoon coriander
  • 1 Tablespoon cardamom
  • 1 Tablespoon ground pepper
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Method

  • Mix ingredients and store in an airtight shaker container.

Empower Women. End Poverty.

(Article written by guest contributor Amy Wynn)

Entrepreneur Magazine recently published an article highlighting the ONE campaign, urging legislators to empower women by promoting gender equality through their work.

“Girls and women living in extreme poverty – those often hit hardest by the injustice of gender inequality – have been left out of the conversation,” the letter says, asking for data, funding and policy changes to support its cause.

Signed by heavy hitting advocates and activists like Sheryl Sandberg, Amy Poehler, Condoleezza Rice, and Melinda Gates, the open letter concluded in a bold statement that read, “Poverty is sexist.”

Women at Risk

Worldwide, women are far and away the most at risk for facing extreme poverty, preventable disease, and other limiting circumstances. As these limiting circumstances increase, it becomes more challenging for women to get access to many basic resources that could help reduce or eliminate the problems.

Soap Hope was founded with a mission focused on lifting women to a place where they have power to improve their own lives, their families’ lives, and the lives of members of their communities.

Why Soap Hope Supports Women

As we’ve discussed on past blogs, women are the backbone of society, key players in the success of communities large and small.

  • Women consistently invest more of their money back into their families and communities than men.
  • The participation of women in an economy is a proven factor in the stability of a country, and has been linked to lower levels of corruption within government.
  • When a woman is struggling simply to eat, to feed, and to access care for her family, there is little room for her to step into a position of active participation within her community.  Women facing extreme poverty are inherently excluded from participating in leadership and decision making, the very fields from which we all benefit the most from their equality and inclusion.

In short, empowering women is good for everyone.

How Soap Hope Empowers Women

To us, empowering women means giving them a voice and an outstretched hand, not only as a way towards an education or starting a business, but also to empower the women as leaders and decision makers in their communities and around the world.

Through our mission at Soap Hope, women are being brought to the table to participate in and lead these larger conversations. By providing women with resources to lift themselves up, we are able to help loosen the grip of poverty on their lives and free them to contribute to their own communities and society at large.

Every dollar of profit generated from Soap Hope purchases – 100% of it – goes out into the world for one year through programs that provide capital and business training to women so they can start, build and grow their own businesses.

From microloans through Milaap in India, to Esperanza in the Dominican Republic, we join forces with our mission partners to plant the seeds of change for women worldwide.

Don’t Let Poverty Persist

Poverty is a global problem. And as the article from Entrepreneur Magazine reminds us, the key to ending poverty is empowering women.

Women around the world, including in your own communities, are struggling to survive, to provide for their children and families, and find themselves severely limited by their circumstances.

We – you, us, and our mission partners – are doing good by maximizing our collective ability to raise women from poverty. Through your purchase of natural, healthy products at Soap Hope, we are able to partner with organizations around the world to make real, tangible changes in the lives of women.

Conquering poverty takes all of us, working together.