Wideleine Avrissaint has always believed that campaigning as part of a group is better than campaigning alone – and so over the years she’s been actively involved in many good social causes, from organizations to help children out of poverty to drives to improve family nutrition.
In 2009, Avrissaint set up Pwodiksyon Fanm Plato Sentral (PWOFAPLAS) with the aim of giving women more of a say in the local economy. But it was four years later, when the group received a training in soap making using natural products funded by the US organization, Aid to Artisans, that it really found its feet.
It began producing a range of soaps made with herbal extracts and local fruits, everything from lemongrass to vetiver, moringa, saffron, orange, cinnamon and lemon. Production varies from 400 to 500 bars a day, the project employs 15 women, and the soap is sold through a network of local shops and pharmacies.
Ultimately, PWOFAPLAS aims to expand into fruit processing and has a target of creating a total of some 200 jobs. Gradually, Avrissaint says, people are getting used to buying locally produced products, replacing low-quality alternatives from overseas, often containing dangerous ingredients.
The aim is to give women more power, says Avrissaint. “We are already campaigning on health, family planning and women’s rights. Putting in place systems that allow us to contribute economically is another element of the same important process of enablement.”