There are two questions I am always asked when I share that I work with The Women’s Bakery. Whether I am asked by friends, baristas, cyclists, strangers, or frankly, anyone who has ears to listen, these two questions remain constant.
“Where is your bakery?” and, “do you help only women?”
Quickly, I explain that TWB is a social enterprise with most of our work located in East Africa – including the bakeries that we help launch and oversee. This is usually followed by enthusiastic requests to have a bakery in the heart of Denver or another U.S. city. I smile and nod. “Someday, guys. Someday.”
When it comes to the question of gender, I emphasize that our work cannot, and should not be done in isolation. We are aptly named The Women’s Bakery with women as a focus because of the particular challenges women face globally, but we simultaneously believe that any investment in human development must involve everyone.
This year, we will have two trainings that include male participants. That’s a big deal. Working with men matters because promoting larger-level concepts of autonomy, or choice, or opportunity, has to be supported by the society-at-large.
Traditionally decision-making, authority, and control have often been yielded to men. As women enter the workforce, complete education, and make choices about the direction of their lives, power becomes more equitable. Men – and women- work together for the communities, families, and children they are looking to support. Equitable societies give voice to all – no matter what gender one has.
In the United States, when women were provided the right to vote in 1920, the process of acceptance and advocacy for civic equality was a movement propelled by both genders. Securing this victory didn’t happen overnight; it developed over time, with investment from all genders as a mutually beneficial change for our country.
In baking bread, learning about nutritious food options, and building a locally-relevant bakery, men are needed because men are also part of the community.
When women and men are able to work side by side in a bakery, equality begins to take shape. Women – and men- are equally capable in kneading dough, in marketing products, and in tracking inventory. Identifying areas of gender inequity and previous assumptions based on gender, TWB actively is seeking to empower women – which in turn, empowers us all.