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HOW SOAP IS PROTECTING THE LGBTIQ COMMUNITY


Hundreds of East African LGBTIQ refugees fleeing from Uganda, Sudan, Somalia, South Sudan, and Burundi are finding refuge in the Kakuma Refugee Camp in northwest Kenya. Life in the camp can be challenging for most but being an LGBTIQ refugee makes it extremely difficult to survive.

Yet within the heart of Kakuma, there is a flicker of hope within the LGBTIQ refugee community. Despite an array of daily discrimination, violence, and obstacles, this LGBTIQ enterprising group has created the first of its kind: an LGBTIQ refugee-led soap making business. While countless LGBTIQ refugees have been marginalized and given limited access to job opportunities due to their sexual orientation and/or gender identity, the soap-making business has proven to be a shield from discrimination and hate.

In Kakuma, this new soap making business is being led by local NGO Upper Rift Minorities (URM) and supported by ORAM, Mossier and their donors. With the help of these benefactors, 23 LGBTIQ refugees have been able to create a cooperative where they can produce and sell critical necessities such as soap and hand sanitizers to their peers in the camp. With the help of ORAM’s seed funding, the trainees have developed skills in soap manufacturing, financial education, and marketing. The cooperative was able to buy the necessary ingredients to establish a shop. The first group of trainees to run the cooperative included 12 LGBTIQ refugees from South Sudan, Sudan, Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi, Congo and Somalia. All of these trainees have been residents in the camp for up to thirteen years.

The cooperative developed a marketing strategy and coined the name `Kakuma Cleans’ for the business. The group produces large batches of multipurpose soap which fully meet quality and safety standards. This is then packaged into recycled water bottles with the logo ready for sale in the shop. The cooperative has also generated a wider market of customers both within and outside the camp including local Kenyan businesses which recognize the quality of the product. Since production started the cooperative has produced 1168 gallons and sold 749 gallons of multipurpose soap.

Unfortunately, over the past few months there have been more attacks in Kakuma Camp against LGBTIQ refugees. However, LGBTIQ refugee involved with the soap making business have not been attacked, as they are increasingly being seen as instrumental members by the wider refugee community and as critical workers against the fight to ward off COVID-19.

To read more about the soap business, check out ORAM’s Impact Report Here (LINK)

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