Given the current global health crisis, you might even believe that headline. It’s not far from the truth and here’s why.
Quick story. One of the places where She Is Safe works is in Myanmar. This Southeast Asian country formerly known as Burma borders the giant nations of both China and India and is home to millions of desperately impoverished families. And yet, Burma was once predicted to rise as an ‘Asian Tiger’ because of its rich resources and educational prowess. For many reasons that prestige and economic vitality slipped away paving the way for the destitution and deprivation that now marks this struggling nation.
Enough about the history, right? Just get to the part about the soap. For those of you who are familiar with She Is Safe, you know that we work in some of the world’s most oppressive countries to women and girls, many of which also infamously share the title of “highest trafficking corridor in the world.” Myanmar most certainly qualified. In 2015, She Is Safe collaborated with an indigenous NGO already doing great work. Together, we partnered to launch a SIS program that for 17 years has successfully helped women lift themselves out of poverty. The SIS Transformation Group program is multi-faceted and addresses not just a woman’s economics, but also the way she views herself and the value of her contributions. Perhaps its most significant metric is its longevity. When we bring women together in groups to learn and grow, they cultivate a lifelong ‘sisterhood’ that equips them to weather life’s storms. The secret sauce is that “togetherness.” They rise together.
Okay, now for the soap. One of the pieces of this transformation puzzle is the top-notch vocational training that SIS offers these groups of women. One woman might grow produce to sell at market, another might purchase large quantities of charcoal at bulk prices and then repackage it in smaller portions where she can profit from charging a little more. Others will create and market beautiful, colorful baskets that are everywhere in the larger cities. All of our group participants are encouraged to use their natural gifts and interests to become entrepreneurs. They are also taught micro-enterprise strategies which include instruction on how to reinvest their profits for the good of the whole group.
Last year, one group of women decided they would make and sell soap. Enter the novel coronavirus. Given the raging pandemic, all of a sudden soap is a hot commodity. Everything the women had learned and practiced was needed to meet this vital demand. In a normal scenario, the group’s earnings, would allow these moms to provide for their families, pay their bills and even save a little through their group. This solvency ensures that when hard times hit, the parents don’t have to choose between selling a daughter into slavery or the rest of the family being able to eat. But these aren’t normal times and the soap, now truly as valuable as gold in a country that suffers from a lack of quality medical care, is being distributed for free.
That these women can respond to their nation’s crisis is possible only because people like you invested in their futures. When you partnered with She Is Safe to free and equip women and girls, who could have imagined a scenario like COVID-19 where the impact of your gifts would not just help elevate women but result in the mass production of a life-saving commodity? At She Is Safe we teach women that they matter to God and to their communities. That truth has never been more evident to them than right now. Yes, it’s true. Soap is the new gold and it is paving Myanmar’s street for a safer, stronger future.