A Mexican organization is addressing the scourge of gender violence through its bread-baking and entrepreneurship workshops, encouraging women from different parts of this capital and the surrounding state of Mexico to share their experiences of vulnerability.
"I came with a lot of doubts personally, and they're clearing those up for me," Rosario, one of three students who attended a workshop run by the group Las Panas on Monday, told Efe.
In the latest session, she and her fellow participants were taught how to make doughnuts and learned about the accounting requirements for a food business.
Las Panas founder Rosalia Trujano told Efe she discovered that bread-making could be a powerful tool in bringing women together and providing a space for them to discuss potentially painful subjects.
"I realized I could share with my female companions in a different way while we were making bread. There was a very different kind of experience, especially during moments of rest ... Those were times that gave us the chance to be together, to share what we'd learned, to give each other advice," she said.
A psychologist and social worker by trade, Trujano began baking bread with neighbors at her apartment in Mexico City's historic downtown three years ago with the aim of forging links with other women in the area.
"My goal at that time was to create a community map. But I gradually realized that was my interest," while for her neighbors the important thing was spending time together, she said.
While the bread was baking, her neighbors would start talking about different situations they were going through, Trujano said, adding that the women eventually shared intimate details of their lives such as their children's prison stays or their severe financial difficulties.
"Many of the things they talked about had to do with gender violence," Trujano said.
Official figures indicate there were 967 femicides (gender-related homicides) in 2020, while civil organizations say more than 10 women are killed every day in Mexico.
Several female psychologists and bakers are part of Las Panas' team, including Mafer Rodriguez, who met Trujano two years ago and currently conducts a cost-free baking workshop for women from Mexico City's low-income periphery.
That workshop is subsidized by other participants who are able to pay, helping ensure the program's self-sustainability.
"For me it's very important that women have other tools that allow them economic autonomy. It's a very comprehensive project because they come together, share experiences, work through their emotions and (the workshops) become super cathartic," the baker said.
In addition to talking and sharing personal experiences, participants also receive training in how to start a successful bread business.
"I'm finding it to be very nice and very fun. I'm learning and I'm seeing a way to obtain economic sustenance," Rosario said.
Although she did not delve into her personal life, Rosario said her daughter encouraged her to attend because she saw her "cooped up and depressed at home" after having always been a very active woman.
The pandemic has made it difficult for Las Panas to fulfill its main objective of creating a network of women who stay connected and provide mutual assistance, although the workshops now are resuming at reduced capacity.
"Coming here makes us feel like a family," Rosario said. EFE