SAN DIEGO — The members of BEMA raised more than $90,000 to help support The Women’s Bakery, an organization in East Africa helping to train and provide bakery jobs for women and feed schoolchildren.

Access to opportunities can transform lives, Pauline Kariuki, director of operations for The Women’s Bakery, told attendees at the BEMA Convention 2022, held June 22-25 in San Diego. Access to education helped her rise up, and now she’s working to empower other women in East Africa.

“I stand here before you an empowered woman, a motivated woman, a woman on a mission to help create access to opportunities to more women,” Ms. Kariuki said. “Opportunity changed the course of my life and that of my child. This is the same impact that I see with the women that we work with, where the impact is not just to an individual; it’s generational.”

She said The Women’s Bakery is working toward building bakeries that are self-sustaining. This would allow the organization to replicate the model and expand it.

The group currently owns and operates three bakeries in Rwanda, has one franchised bakery in Uganda and has trained women at three other bakeries in East Africa that operate independently.

The organization had planned to emerge from the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and soon become a self-sustaining entity, but the war in Ukraine has hampered those efforts. Still, The Women’s Bakery has ambitious plans. It is currently feeding 11,000 schoolchildren a day and has a goal to expand that to 100,000 children next year. 

“With your support, The Women’s Bakery will continue to empower women and transform lives for future generations,” Ms. Kariuki said. “I hope you, the baking industry, are watching. I hope you are paying close attention to us, and I hope you have interest in us. And now I’m asking you to transform your interest into action. With growth, we can empower more women, we can feed more children, we can address nutritional gaps. This is a unique opportunity to have a big impact on a small country. The impact can also spread through East Africa.”