Govher Khanhuseynova comes from the Bilasuvar region of Azerbaijan, around 190 km south-east of the capital Baku. She has always liked baking.
Govher baked for her family, baked batches to order for her friends, and even delivered her goods to the local shop to be sold there. However, fear and a lack of confidence hindered her desire to start her own business. She was worried that it would not work.
In 2016, Govher learned about the opening of the Women's Resource Centre in Bilasuvar and applied for support. Govher, among other members of the Women’s Resource Centre, benefitted from psychosocial counseling services made available to the rural women as part of the European Union’s support to women empowerment in Azerbaijan.
The centre was created within the framework of the project 'Enabling civil society to play a greater role in advancing gender equality and women’s rights', which was carried out in the region by the United Nations Development Programme, in close collaboration with Azerbaijan’s State Committee on Family, Women and Children Affairs with funding from the European Union between 2016 and 2018. Regions near the southern border of Azerbaijan, where patriarchal values are especially strong, were chosen to participate.
"During one of the classes, a letter from a housewife was read to us. It seemed like all the thoughts and feelings that I had were described in the letter. I could not hold back my tears. I left the class fully convinced that I would have my own business and that everything would turn out fine," shares Govher.
Thanks to the financial support of the project, Govher opened her small bakery, naming it in honour of her granddaughter "Mələyim", which means "my angel".
On 4 March, the bakery celebrates one year of business. The result of her restless work and dedication was the fivefold increase in the volume of production at Govher’s bakery shop. Govher works with two assistants, with practically no time off.
"In the beginning we used about 5 kg of flour per day, but now we use 20-25 kg. Before the New Year's holidays, we baked 50 cakes every day!" the business owner says.
All sorts of pastries are made in the bakery. About 30 different kinds of goods are available daily. Traditional pastries such as baklava (broadly known in Azerbaijan as “pakhlava”), shekerbura and gogal are most popular among customers.
Govher Khanhuseynova is enthusiastic and intends to develop her business further. She plans to turn her bakery into a small café for women. The premises offer the opportunity for expansion and there is a great need for a women's leisure spot in the area.
"Be brave and use your skills, possibilities and talents. Develop them. Let nothing stand in the way of your striving towards financial independence," Govher says, directing her words to all women in Azerbaijan’s regions.
Author: Elena Ostapenko