At 8am in the community of San Antonio Copalar, eight women gather in the garden of a neighbour’s house. This is the place where their business began.
They begin to mix ingredients, kneading enough dough to make 500 small loaves of bread. Despite the hot weather and long working hours, spirits remain high, with chit chat and laughter all day long.
Six months ago, these women were strangers. They were neighbours but they barely knew each other. Now they are not only making bread and an income, but they are making strong community ties.
The tropical community of San Antonio Copalar is located in the southern region of Chiapas, the poorest in Mexico. 35 families and approximately 120 inhabitants live in this remote community, where the closest school and hospital are 45 minutes away by bus.
“The difficulty faced by the families here, is that they do not have access to basic services, there is a lack of employment in the community,” says SOS Children’s Community Advisor Graciela Aguilar. “Women don’t have opportunities to find work or to improve themselves.”
As in many rural areas, women are expected to undertake most of the household chores whilst the men go to work. These rigid gender roles not only stop women from contributing financially, but also limit their personal growth.
The eight women baking and selling bread in San Antonio Copalar are challenging this status quo.
After talking to Ms. Aguilar and learning that some women knew how to make bread, a rarity in the area, the group of eight decided to start the bread business. As part of the family strengthening programme, the women were supported with supplies, ingredients, and business advice. They were also given the materials to build the bread oven.
The project's objective is for women to empower themselves, to generate their own economic resources to help them support their families and to see that they have opportunities to develop within their community.
“It is bread made with our own hands, made by ourselves,” says Evila, one of the bread makers, proudly, “and we already know the process, we are hygienic, and we bring something healthy home.”
After a morning of hard work, Evila and a colleague walk around town, knocking on doors to sell their freshly made bread. The first time they began selling to the community, they sold everything they had. Now, a regular customer from a neighbouring community picks up half of the production to resell it in her market stand.
The women have succeeded in setting up this small community business, and with the right support and training, they have all of the key ingredients for growing the business further.