New skills in Myanmar
Cavelle Dove is passionate about empowering impoverished women. As director of MEDA’s new project in Myanmar, she helps women seize new business opportunities in the country’s changing economic environment.
Even before working for MEDA she was active in similar pursuits in Yangon, Myanmar. She and a Canadian friend, Kelly MacDonald, opened the Bakehouse, a catering business that gives struggling women a foothold in the new economy.
Visit their kitchens in Yangon and you’ll see women measure and mix ingredients for baked goods or prepare vegetables for fresh salads and soups, while gaining marketable skills.
When the ruling military junta recently relaxed restrictions on such enterprises, Dove and MacDonald saw a double opportunity to provide healthy Western-style food that wasn’t widely available and at the same time equip disadvantaged women to embrace new opportunities. In 2012 they began the Bakehouse in MacDonald’s kitchen and expanded it a year later.
The 10-month apprenticeship program teaches skills ranging from kitchen food safety and hygiene to English. Seventy women have thus far completed the program, most finding better jobs paying an average of $45 U.S. a month, up to seven times what they earned before.
Apprentice Moe Moe Swe, for example, previously made $6 a month as a seamstress, not enough to support her young son. Thin Liang earned a pittance cleaning up stray bottles at a brewery. Now, she says, “I am really proud because I get the success and chances that I never dreamed of in my life.”
The Bakehouse provides catering services to several major companies in Yangon. A big new client is Coca Cola, which was allowed back into Myanmar after being banned for many years and needed food services in its new corporate headquarters.
“We provide their lunch program,” says Dove. “It’s quite exciting.”
Since starting her work with MEDA Dove has cut back her daily role with the business, though she is still on its board and spends a few hours a week on Bakehouse activity.