This past week, The Women's Bakery East Africa Team found ourselves in Kayonza - banana land, two hours East of Kigali (the capital). We were in a red, stuffy room at a children’s educational development center that women's co-op leader, Flavia, had helped initiate and get off the ground. This, in addition, to the other roles she has played as a leader in the Kayonza community; the more I learned about Flavia, the more dynamic she appeared to be.
We started the conversation and my, how we talked.
But don’t be fooled, we danced too. Of course. Always, always dancing in Rwanda.
The traditional Rwandan dancing came after our arrival and being introduced with the group of women Flavia helped to organize. Each women shared their name and their home village. Some came in beautiful fabrics found only in these corners of the world, and as each woman presented themselves, I remembered how each one has a story. Each one has a vision. How humbling and grateful I am to work for an organization that blends these stories together for change. .
We told them of what we do, of the training we have completed in other parts of Rwanda and Tanzania, and our vision for women, bread, and business. The women – attentive, excited, and numerous – listened and asked questions. We spoke of the materials for training needed, the kinds of lessons we teach, and the process of what happens after the training is completed. We explained that because of the informational nature of this meeting, our team wanted to better understand if the Kayonza cooperative was ready, compatible, and able to consider seriously entering the process for TWB training.
This is the general process we have as an organization currently– to begin a training, it is important to meet, discuss, share, and negotiate how it would work for each group. Every women’s group that we meet and partner with is different, and the question of commitment and feasibility is always on our minds.
As our team meets with different potential partners, groups, and women, we realize and recognize that the discussions and process are truly a building process. Empowerment, education, and transformational change don’t just happen overnight. It’s a relationship, it’s a discussion, and we are excited to begin those conversations with this specific group in Kayonza.
Moving forward will be dependent on numerous variables, largely funding, timing, and logistics, and yet, the opportunity persists; the need remains. It’s a gap in the world that we are driven by – women’s empowerment – and this group in Kayonza (along with Flavia) was a reminder that because the need remains, we are able to offer opportunity and choice as market-based solutions. That, we believe, is bread power.
Our woman of the week is Flavia.
Flavia, a leader who is seeking, eyes opened wide, for access and opportunity for her women’s group. Demonstrating what strong advocacy looks like, the conversation for a potential group match would never have begun if she had not initiated the initially small, light-hearted discussion a few weeks back on a sun-soaked bus ride into Kigali.
As an organization, we appreciate women like Flavia, as these are the women who are changing, renewing, and innovating their communities – more and more, we hope with bread.
For the entirety of the story on Flavia, please visit Heather Newell's personal blog 'Ikundayou' at: https://ikundayou.wordpress.com/