By Tessa Soni
In 1909, Women’s Day was started as part of the labor movement in the United States. By the next year, 100 women from 17 countries met in Copenhagen, Denmark to advocate for women’s rights and the right to vote. On March 8, 1917, Russian women protested for “Bread and Peace”. 4 days later in countries around the world women were granted the right to vote. Today, this special day is celebrated to boast women’s achievements, advancements and value regardless of their culture, their social or economic background, their religious upbringing or country of origin.
When I was in high school, I remember that none of the female staff were seen in the kitchen on International Women’s Day. Meals were prepared only by male staff. What I remember the most from those days - apart from the fact that auntie Judith’s sauce was impossible to replicate - was the change in attitude of the women at my school. I was amazed by how such little encouragement and validation brought such noticeable positive impact in the female staff.
Those high school days brought me to the belief that investing in women has a multiplier effect. In the 1920’s Ghanaian scholar, James Emman Aggrey, said, “If you educate a man you simply educate an individual, but if you educate a woman, you educate a whole nation.”
I personally believe that The Women’s Bakery is living proof of this concept. From a very brave woman baking bread with neighbor ladies in Bushoga, Rwanda to today’s company which employs 42 women, TWB practices the multiplier effect every day. Every woman who works for TWB is a rock star. She is to be celebrated today on International Women’s Day and every day.
As one of the newest additions to the team, I have to admit I had my own set of questions and uncertainties about how TWB was living the multiplier effect when I first joined. Why bread? Can you really make a business profitable based on such a perishable and highly produced commodity as bread? How do you decide where to draw the line between the social and operational needs of such a business?
I believe one of the biggest truths in this world is that you can accomplish almost anything if you are dedicated enough. I think that is the common character trait in everyone working at TWB and what makes TWB successful. We are dedicated to women, and bread is our tool to impact a nation.
At TWB, the expression “wearing many hats” has brought on a whole new meaning for me. And I find power in that. I find power in a woman with a public health background with better financial skills than many accountants I’ve met. I find power in a colleague who is a highly experienced professional with an MBA and an impressive career path. And I find power in a woman who lives in the far ends of Kagina with no professional qualifications prior to working for TWB. The dedication to make a social and economic impact in the community is equally real for each of them.
As we celebrate International Women’s Day this year, I can’t help but feel privileged to work alongside women who are truly, in every sense of the meaning, worth fighting for. Their achievements, no matter their culture, social or economic background, their religious upbringing or country of origin, are to be celebrated! Happy International Women’s Day!