This post is written by Kaitlin Walter, a current student at Emory University and a Global Development Fellow. She will return to Manyeleti, South Africa this summer for one year to implement the Bakery Social Entrepreneurship Project.
Women play many pivotal roles in Uta: mother (to many), teacher, caretaker, wife, aunt, sister, friend. In fact, when you walk around Uta, you will see women carrying out the daily work of the village, keeping things going, running the show. In every book that I have read about social enterprise, and in many of microcredit’s success stories, women come up again and again as the agents through which to effect social change and market development. Organizing groups of women to form microfinance groups or to start small businesses has proved to be extremely effective and successful at combating extreme poverty and its effects (illiteracy, malnutrition, susceptibility to disease, unemployment, orphanage, the list goes on). The Bakery Project aims help the women that it employs attain financial independence and therefore empowerment. The project will encourage women to organize around ideas and form groups. These groups will then provide support systems and forums for creativity and idea-sharing for those involved as well as providing examples of entrepreneurship for other women in the village.
By tapping into one of Uta’s main assets, the strength and intelligence of its women, the Bakery Project will be powered by a very sustainable source of energy. I am very excited to be a part of a program that not only empowers women but also derives its power from women. (And if you ever get a chance to taste one of Doris’ biscuits, you will understand a whole new definition of the power of baking!). The Bakery Project will help mothers get their children much-needed nutrients through its products, and it will also develop a program that educates women and their children about nutrition. The Project meets at an intersection of health, education, and gender issues, providing me with the opportunity to join my fellow women in the pursuit of a more equal South Africa and world.