What does mental health mean to you—what value does it hold in your daily life and functioning? For most, mental health isn’t just a piece of the puzzle, but something that affects the whole of their being. When mental illness becomes a part of your story, it can permeate all other aspects of your life and health.
In a country and context where trauma has affected many, fostering mental health and healing is of great importance to the success of the individual as well as the collective. However, in the context of the lives of the women that work at The Women’s Bakery, mental health hasn’t been a luxury they have the privilege to explore.
About 9 months ago, we started a Mental Health Counseling Program with the women in our Kigali Bakery as a pilot program. We knew this could be a valuable space to process, learn, heal and grow, but we didn’t know how the women would take to the service. As we planned for the program, it was important to us that we hire someone who could both speak Kinyarwanda, and also relate and understand their culture and lifestyle. We hired a Rwandan certified female counselor, Specioza, and started our first day of counseling in October 2017.
Each day of counseling is spent with individual sessions in the morning, a group lunch session where topics such as conflict resolution, marriage and family, and professionalism are discussed. Then an afternoon of individual sessions. The women almost immediately took to the programming, and have really enjoyed their time with Specioza. We have seen improvement in conflict resolution within the bakery, as well as heard personal stories of healing and reconciliation among friends, families, and marriages. We have also recently started inviting the husbands of the women to participate in the individual sessions.
As our next step, we launched the service in the other two TWB managed bakeries—Ndera and Kagina. Another very experienced Rwandan female counselor has been working with these women. While the uptake has been slower, we are excited to see how the women make this program their own.
Our future goals and plans with the program are to continue to see it iterate based on the needs of each bakery, as well as hone in on the true impact of the service. While we are a business, we are also a family and the individual needs of each woman we work with matters to us deeply.
As a social enterprise we have the privilege to meet market demand with local supply while we create jobs for strong women, as well as foster healthy lives from a holistic level.