RISE Fellowship Update: Junior Bakasa
Junior Bakasa is the founder of OV Products and our RISE Fellow in Zimbabwe. Through becoming a RISE Fellow, Junior has been able to install a hygiene bank next to boreholes to support underserved communities in Zimbabwe. Additionally, Junior's social enterprise financially empowers women by providing them with employment which challenges their status in society. Continue reading below to learn more about Junior's progress.
"How has the RISE Fellowship impacted your business?"
When you are in your own little corner of the world, in Zimbabwe to be precise, it is an amazing feeling to be noticed and acknowledged by someone, or an organization, that that is so far away, yet, believes in your vision and what you stand for. It makes you stronger which I feel most entrepreneurs need every day. Just that strength to keep going.
Becoming a RISE Fellow gave my business the nod of approval that I needed to persevere in the water, sanitation, and hygiene space. It allowed me to realign and look for more ways to serve meaningfully within the sector. Being accountable to RISE through the fellowship pushed me to measure our progress and success and encouraged me to ask for help when we needed it. It led to us impacting more people and I cannot wait to see how we will keep evolving as a result of the fellowship.
"What is your biggest accomplishment so far?"
When I became a RISE Fellow I started work on my idea of distributing soap through hygiene banks but our infrastructure development had not been completed. I shared my vision with Sundara and they supported me with seed funding which allowed us to finish our hygiene bank in an underserved community in Zimbabwe. We made it in a way that encouraged consumers' buy-in without them feeling like it was out of their reach. We blended in with other buildings in the area and started selling our soap through dispensers and encouraging recycling to ensure that we kept our costs low.
Being able to officially launch our hygiene bank through the help we got from Sundara was such an accomplishment. And we are working to open a second one with RISE's support, which will see other communities being positively impacted by this way of distributing soap.
The hygiene banks also double as safe spaces for women to discuss all things hygiene including menstrual health hygiene. It really has been an interesting journey so far, just being able to see my dreams and solutions being actualized because of the fellowship. The past few months have been great as a result. The opportunity that was born out of our partnership with Sundara also created a platform for me to give presentations in front of the Rotary Club, speaking about water, sanitation, and hygiene in underserved communities and exploring different possible synergies. We have no doubt that this is only the beginning and we will accomplish more through our increase in reach.
"What difference has OV Products made to the community?"
We have been advocating for positive hygiene behaviour change in the communities we work with. We teach community members the importance of using hygiene products to fight off recurring diseases like cholera, typhoid, and diarrhoea, as well as selling soap. We have seen positive change and this pushes us to grow and replicate the same model in other communities and scale.
"How has OV Products shaped the lives of its employees?"
We employ women who are part of the manufacturing team and this has allowed them to break the bias against jobs that have been mainly reserved for men only. They too are championing change through the work they are doing. They are also able to take care of their families and for some break away from abusive relationships as a result of being empowered financially. The women are also now able to send their children to school which has been wonderful to see.
"If you could share one piece of advice with your younger self, what would it be and why?"
I would tell my younger self to relax and know that all things work together, eventually. That we are all connected and every route you take is leading you to your destiny so trust the process. I would also tell myself that you are the epitome of all that is possible for you so be unapologetically you and keep doing the things that set your heart on fire. Do not be afraid to try new things and even take the road less travelled, do not be afraid to be a disruptor, you never know who might be there willing to assist you on your journey.