In April, I traveled to Rwanda where I saw the multidimensional benefits of The Women’s Bakery taking shape. While The Women’s Bakery is still refining the recipe for its business model, I saw firsthand that the bakery acts as a springboard for women to develop basic professional and leadership skills. These women can then reinvest these skills to build healthier communities and families. Another important component to the bakery, not discussed quite as often, is its ability to bridge cultures. I want to talk about how The Women’s Bakery connected me to Rwandan culture, which I hope reflects another level of impact that The Women’s Bakery provides.
In my visit to the first bakery established by The Women’s Bakery, I interacted with Rwandan women, which opened a window into their daily lives and the struggles they face in finding work and supporting their families. Through The Women’s Bakery, I also met Aime Nshizirungu, who in many ways represents a bright future for Rwanda. Aime shared with me his story of Rwanda and exposed me to the notion that The Women’s Bakery is not just about women. From the very beginning, Aime has played an integral role in empowering women through the bakery. Aime knows that investing in women can yield high impacts in regions exacerbated by public health concerns and gender inequality. Therefore, Aime has worked tirelessly to educate these first cohorts of women bakers and stands out as a leader to address social and economic challenges through empowering women. Through Aime, I learned about Rwanda from a perspective that I would never have been exposed to without The Women’s Bakery. Most notably, Aime took me to visit his chicken farm in the village of Ntarama where he employs and provides housing for a previously unemployed and homeless family. Through working on the farm, the family now has the means to send their children to school. Impressively, Aime finds the time to work for The Women’s Bakery, attend graduate school, and manage his farm. Since the vast majority of Rwandans currently live in rural communities, this visit to Ntarama with Aime allowed me to better understand the livelihood of an average citizen in Rwanda.
There are two important messages regarding The Women’s Bakery that I would like to reiterate from my experiences visiting Rwanda. As The Women’s Bakery continues to develop its primary goal of empowering women, it will also provide a means to share cultures and create friendships like it has already for me and many others. Also, that the success of The Women’s Bakery depends on the hard work and support of both women and men. I hope to continue communicating with Aime and next time he visits the United States I hope to share with him where I am from. I am excited to see how Aime and The Women’s Bakery will continue to further empower women, bridge cultures, and integrate men towards achieving their mission.
- Ben North
Tourist and Younger Brother of TWB Staff Meg North and TWB Consultant Liz North Boucher