Creating Income Opportunities in Joint-Ventures for Disadvantaged Rural Women in COFEMali San, Mali

Creating Income Opportunities in Joint-Ventures for Disadvantaged Rural Women in COFEMali San, Mali

Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
$250,000 - $500,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Job opportunities for women are rare in Mali due to restrictive norms related to women’s roles in public life. Participation in associations requires spousal authorization; otherwise it leads to less transparency. Illiteracy and lack of training cause underemployment. Limited information and access to new markets and customer base stifle growth. Hostile regulatory environments hamper business growth. Access to funding for rural entrepreneurs is a dire need. The project seeks to reduce cultural barriers and improve transparency in their businesses. Building entrepreneurial skills and assisting women to implement effective projects can lead to meaningful changes. Advocacy is useful in improving women’s status and positioning them as achievers. COFEMali-JV is addressing these issues

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

San is one of the 59 districts in Mali that is located in Segou region. San has a surface area of 7262 km2 that is irrigated by waters of the river Bani and river Niger. It is made up of 25 Local Government Areas (LGAs) having a total of 421 villages. San is administered by a Prefect. It has a population that is mostly agro-pastoral. Less than 39 percent of the population lives in San town, a town with about 189,000 people. A majority of the population lives in rural villages. San has an economy that relies mainly on agriculture, livestock, handicrafts and small trade. Millet and rice are the main products cultivated. Group gardening by women’s associations is common. Fishing is practised and fish farming is done in ponds. At least a woman’s association exists in every village in San and carries out income generation activity. An association has between 15 and 200 members. Associations are created for social support of its members. Most associations support a loan scheme for income generation activities by its members. 25 Local Government Areas in San have households headed by a head. The households are grouped into a family headed by a family head. Families form a village led by a traditional village head. Villages (421) form the district. A framework exists for partnerships in managing the affairs of San.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

A Joint Venture program involving women from all Local Government Areas in San district is new in Mali. Mobilizing a huge number of women to produce, market and promote their product in rural Mali is a real “changemaker”. COFEMali San will scale-up the Joint Venture Project district-wide as a women’s micro-enterprise that create jobs for members including disadvantaged women, and integrate an incentive scheme in marketing products. It will engage over 7840 rural poor handicapped women and widows to market their product. Women in the joint-venture will use health messages to generate high demand for COFEMali Soap. Their associations will be transformed into platforms for promoting the soap/product and market outlets for the soap. 220 women’s associations with 7,840 rural will be engaged in COFEMali-JV Soap. Advocacy, using community dialogue meetings, is used to position women as achievers and changemakers. The women choose the product to market and use in their households. Opinion surveys help the 7,840 rural women to identify top priority products to be marketed through the Joint Venture. “COFEMali Soap” is the Joint Venture’s product in the market. An incentive scheme to sustain marketing of COFEMali soap by 7,840 women is helpful. Demand for COFEMali Soap has far exceeded production and COFEMali San is searching funds to scale-up production and marketing to grow geographical coverage. Highly motivated partner women’s associations financed start-up production and marketing of COFEMali Soap that reached less than 25% of the 220 women’s associations.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

• Create demand for COFEMali Soap and services (soap, hand washing, etc) Design an association-based communication model focused on household essential health practices, including hand-washing with soap and water. • Train 20 women to produce COFEMali Soap using Mali-made machines: (3RD month Q1) Empower women to use machines and chemical products safely in soap-making. (Q1) • Procure equipment and supplies for making COFEMali Soap (cotton seed oil, sodium hydroxide, carbonate, perfume, etc). (Q1 of FY01). • Produce COFEMali soap, at least 50,000 tablets of 300 mg each per month for the 220 women’s associations. (Q1) • Design an incentive scheme for Association-based marketing of COFEMali soap. This will increase household income. Each woman will buy and save 5% of the cost of Soap. • Develop district-wide market outlets (220) for COFEMali soap. Use outlets to reach households with the soap/product. • Monitor the association-based marketing of COFEMali Soap (cost, etc).
About You
Global Village Networks, Inc.
About You
First Name


Last Name


About Your Organization
Organization Name

Global Village Networks, Inc.

Organization Country

, MD, Baltimore County

Country where this project is creating social impact

, SG

How long has your organization been operating?

1‐5 years

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What stage is your project in?

Operating for 1‐5 years

Share the story of the founder and what inspired the founder to start this project

Dr. David Awasum, the founder of the Coalition of Women’s Associations for Family Welfare in Mali (COFEMali) wanted to create communication platforms for women. He was stroke by the multitude of women micro-enterprises, especially among disadvantaged women (handicaps) in associations. He looked for a structure that can bring disadvantaged women closer for social support and connect them to sustainable entrepreneurs with the skills and training necessary to strengthen income-generation initiatives that are scalable and have the greatest potential to positively impact households and communities. He took this idea to 14 district Dialogue Meetings on solution finding in Malian communities.
COFEMali San, along with other nine district branches, was created in the second half of 2009 with strong political support from district, regional government services.
In their associations women organized health education sessions on hand washing with soap and water and made referrals. 220 women’s associations came together to create COFEMali.
Initial funding for demand generation from USAID, Georgetown University, Lux Development, and World Vision has been helpful. Increased awareness about hand washing with soap and water generates demand for COFEMali soap in households.

Social Impact
Please describe how your project has been successful and how that success is measured

• Creation of the district coalition of women’s associations called COFEMali San. Engagement of district leaders is total. Success is measured by the official registration documents or authorization to function in the district issued. COFEMali report will provide this data.
• Mobilization of associations into coalitions. Bringing associations together into coalitions fosters working together, increases the sharing of information about the activities/products in member associations. Successful mobilization is measured by the number of registered associations adhering in the coalition. 220 women’s associations are in partnership in COFEMali San. Source of data is a COFEMali report.
• Active membership. The number of associations that have adhered to and paid their membership fees to COFEMali San. The number of receipts issued by COFEMali.
• Training and equipping association leaders. 75 trained and another 100 slated for training in July 2011. Sources of information are workshop reports.
• Sustained mobilization for use of COFEMali Soap. The trained and equipped leaders of women’s associations organize health education sessions. Information on the number of sessions and participants reached will be gotten from association activity reports.

How many people have been impacted by your project?

More than 10,000

How many people could be impacted by your project in the next three years?

More than 10,000

How will your project evolve over the next three years?

FY01. Building the capacity of project management. Procurement of equipment and supplies to respond to high quantity of COFEMali Soap to be produced for 220 associations covering the 7840 households they serve. Efforts will also be directed towards managing the growing customer base and new services. COFEMali San will launch top priority new items into the marketing outlets to include also Sugar, Salt, Rice and Oil (cooking).
FY02. The COFEMali-JV Soap will be extended to five other districts with COFEMali branch offices. Production units for COFEMali soap will be created in 5 districts. Other top priority items will be introduced into the marketing outlets.
FY03. COFEMali will develop marketing networks/outlets for top priority products and continue the expansion of COFEMali-JV Soap

What barriers might hinder the success of your project and how do you plan to overcome them?

(i) Lack of financial security. Limits access to equipment and supplies as well as progress in the implementation of the project. Financial planning ensures financial security.
(ii) Lack of community support. Community support is very important in projects like COFEMali-JV. Large number of women and their households consume the product. Without associations, a joint venture will collapse. Nurturing partnership and listening to partners always ensures longevity of the venture.
(iii) Limited geographical Growth. Wider geographic coverage builds greater customer-base for the product. Long-term planning guides coverage of geographic growth.
(iv) Lack of cost recovery mechanisms. Mechanisms that guarantee long-term financial security, such as cost recovery on services, guarantees sustainable funding.
(v) Lack of Transparency and Accountability. A frequent and destructive in a partnership that seeks to grow. COFEMali is helping its associations to trouble-shoot for transparency and develop timely plans to correct the situation.
(vi) Lack of strong partnerships. In a joint-venture, maintaining strong partnerships with core partners (the associations) and other meaningful partnerships are crucial for growth. COFEMali-JV nurtures all partnerships that can sustain its activities.
(vii) Restrictive cultural norms. Reaching associations and district leaders with education on the role of women in development will surely weaken barriers due to poor women’s status. Community Dialogue meetings offer good opportunities.

Tell us about your partnerships

Core COFEMali-JV Partners: Partnerships exists between COFEMali San and 220 Women’s associations. Associations are not only outlets for marketing COFEMali Soap but are financial partners who contribute funds for soap production.

Partnerships in Health: COFEMali San uses health messages to promote the use of soap.
(i) USAID and collaborating agencies, trains the women to adopt and practice HEHPs, including hand washing with soap and water. Johns Hopkins University Center for Communication Programs is responsible for training, designing and producing communication tools on HEHPs and household monitoring forms.
(ii) Universities/Academic institutions. COFEMali is blessed to collaborate with three universities: (a) Georgetown University, provides training in naturally family planning (b) in addition to producing communication materials. It trains women in community distribution of health products (contraceptives, water purification tablets (Aquatabs); (c) University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, trains women in malaria prevention.

Partnerships for COFEMali-JV soap.
(i) Four for-profit companies. They sell soap-making equipment and soap-making supplies (cotton-seed oil, Sodium Hydroxide, Bicarbonate, Silicate, and perfume.
(ii) Hotels offer COFEMali special rebates for services.
(iii) Three Community radios collaborate with COFEMali San--provide free airtime for public service announcements on soap and health.
(iv) Luxemburg Development trains women in community development
(v) Women’s associations. 220 women’s associations are partners with COFEMali San.

Explain your selections

Friends and family: Supply firewood for heating soap mixture. They promote the use of soap in households, and identify local for profit companies for soap-making supplies.
Individuals: Have supplied gloves and protective masks. Some women provide cleaning of equipment used and food to soap-making workers, carry soap as head load to associations, and promote hand and face washing with soap.
National NGOs: Effective in training leaders of women’s associations in health themes --malaria, prevention, household essential health practices including hand-washing. International NGOs/Non-Profits: Global Village Network, Institute of Reproductive Health, and USAID/KC II community health project. These organizations train women on the Two Washes or education on Household Essential Health practices, including hand-washing.
Businesses: A factory that markets cotton-seed oil with rebate to COFEMali, other businesses that market caustic soda, bicarbonate, etc. for soap-making.
District/Regional government: Mayors offices in the district and LGA’s COFEMali San and women’s associations in remote areas. They receive and dispatch phone calls and messages to and from associations.
National government:Provides a political friendly environment for COFEMali Soap operations, defines technical and policy guidance from through the Ministries of women and children affairs and Economy and Finance.
Customers:Women’s associations who contribute financially through membership fees, transport COFEMali soap to their associations, and ensure the distribution and promotion of COFEMali soap

How do you plan to strengthen your project in the next three years?

Train high performing market teams to work in the outlets. Over three years 220 outlets will be strengthened in FY01. A total of 440 women will be trained to handle and market COFEMali Soap (or other products) in the outlets, equipped with marketing support tools.
Training of Soap-making teams on machines. About 50,000 tablets of soap are needed every month to meet demands from 7840 households
Procure equipment and supplies. Soap production services will be strengthened with trained staff, machines and supplies.
Logistic for supervision and distribution of products. Moving soap from Bamako to the outlets in the Local Government Areas in a timely manner will require a delivery van. This will be purchased in FY01.
Monitor Associations for management capacity for transparency and accountability. The different outlets will be monitored for transparency using pre-determined indicators. Monitoring will be carried out twice a year to detect changes.

Which barriers to employment does your innovation address?
Please select up to three in order of relevancy to your project.




Inadequate transparency


Restrictive cultural norms

Please describe how your innovation specifically tackles the barriers listed above.

• Lack of Transparency. Global Village Networks/COFEMali educates and monitors its partner association’s compliance to set standards in governance, personnel management, financial management, office management and bookkeeping, involvement of communities in services, organizational planning and reporting.
• Underemployment. COFEMali San increases training opportunities and uses volunteers or consultants for soap-making and resource mobilization. Women learn by doing during study visits.
• Restrictive cultural norms. COFEMali San uses Community Dialogues Meetings on Women in Micro-Enterprises to educate leaders and communities. Much efforts position women as achievers in development and can lead and operate micro-enterprises in the communities

Are you trying to scale your organization or initiative?
If yes, please check up to three potential pathways in order of relevancy to you.



Enhanced existing impact through addition of complementary services


Leveraged technology

Please describe which of your growth activities are current or planned for the immediate future.

i) Increase production of COFEMali Soap. Up to 50,000 tablets of soap/month to meet demands from 7840 households.
ii) Procure soap-making equipment. A second set of equipment is needed.
iii) Procure supplies for soap-making. Supplies will be procured for monthly production.
iv) Train soap-making teams. Twenty women will be trained.
v) Strengthen marketing outlets/women’s associations. Train teams in 220 outlets
vi) Launch COFEMali soap in 220 outlets in 25 LGAs. Brief district authorities –administrative, political, religious, traditional and others on project.
vii) Enhance existing impact complementary services in health
Marketing of COFEMali Soap will cover the rest of San households and open the soap marketing outlets to other households

Do you collaborate with any of the following: (Check all that apply)

Government, Technology providers, NGOs/Nonprofits, For profit companies, Academia/universities.

If yes, how have these collaborations helped your innovation to succeed?

Government of Mali:Through its district/regional services, registered COFEMali San as a legal entity; provides favorable political environment for operations.
Technology providers: Internet providers have connected 9 COFEMali branches through internet and cell phones.
NGOs/Non-profits:NGOs train women in health interventions.International non-profits train CBD (health products). Global Village Networks develops COFEMali structures and mobilizes resources.
For profit companies:Suppliers of equipment and soap chemical products.
Academia/universities (1) Johns Hopkins Univ/CCP, produces and supplies BCC materials and train CBD workers on Health practices (2) Georgetown Univ. trains women leaders in reproductive health (3) Univ. of N.C. It trains some women in community obstetric care