Tamu Bakery

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Tamu Bakery: Empowering Gender-Based Violence Survivors Through Baking Therapy

Penryn, United KingdomColombo, Sri Lanka
Year Founded:
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Project Stage:
$50,000 - $100,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Tamu Bakery tackles gender-based violence through the therapeutic power of baking (tamu means sweet, gentle in Swahili). At our workshops women can share, open up, and start to heal. A cafe run by GBV survivors is planned - using cake to engage with people about this taboo subject.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

What if cake baking could be used to challenge the taboo of gender-based violence and empower survivors?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Gender-based violence (GBV) is a huge problem throughout the world, but one that is often either culturally taboo or ignored. Women and children affected do not have a voice and are not empowered to stand up for their right to an abuse free life. Authorities often either ignore or make worse the situation through outdated, chauvinistic attitudes. More people need to be made aware of the devastating impact of GBV.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Tamu Bakery approaches the serious issue of gender based violence in three innovative ways. Firstly, it tackles what for many cultures is a taboo subject in an accessible way – through the medium of cake. Many members or the public have had these issues brought to their attention in this subtle way. Secondly, the baking therapy aspect of the programme is really beneficial to the well-being of the women. It allows them to feel secure, able to open up to others, and become more confident. Also learning a new skill empowers them to continue with vocational training. And thirdly, by building a strong rapport with workshop participants, Yana is able to share their unique stories which informs her GBV consultancy and professional workshops.


2015 received grant award from LUSH cosmetics to run baking therapy sessions with refugees in the UK, and victims of domestic violence in Sri Lanka.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Here is an example of how Tamu Bakery helps. In Kosovo I ran workshops with survivors of wartime rape. The women were withdrawn having suffered terribly and lost their menfolk in the ethnic conflict. But during the session they became livelier, began sharing stories, singing and dancing - all through the power of baking. After the baking session they were even planning to start their own community bakery and sell their products at market. In Montenegro I felt privileged to run baking sessions with hard-to-reach adolescent Roma girls. I was able to find out about their lives and the constraints put on them. By baking and sharing with them the stories of other women, I helped open their eyes to the opportunities available to them.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

Baking therapy sessions have been run with over 200 vulnerable and abused girls and women. These sessions have been run in partnership with local NGOs around the globe, tackling many serious issues such as domestic violence, human trafficking, rape as a weapon of war, female genital mutilation, forced marriage and bride kidnapping. These sessions have enabled me to build a strong rapport with the women and establish trust. I have found out a lot about the causes and effects of GBV this way, and have used these insights to develop a range of training programs for NGO workers, doctors and police officers. I have recently been further developing my baking and patisserie skills (thanks to the help of one of the world's top patisserie chefs) so that I can scale up operations by opening a cafe to provide employment to GBV victims and raise to profile of GBV on the agenda.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

Firstly I plan to continue to work with partner organizations around the world, running sessions, training staff and donating all the necessary equipment so that the women can continue to bake together. My longer-term goal is to open a Tamu cafe providing training and employment to survivors of gender-based violence, and produce a Tamu Bakery cookbook to fundraise and raise awareness. Tamu will use its specialist knowledge to provide consultancy to organizations (I am in discussions with the UN in Sri Lanka about producing training programs for journalists and police officers).

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

Tamu Bakery has three streams of funding: public donations/ cake sales consultancy work in gender-based violence and social/health issues small funding grants. All funds raised are directly used to run projects with women. When baking facilities are set up at partner organizations and training provided, they will be able to continue to bake to provide both therapy and also to fundraise and support participants through baked goods sales.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

Although many organizations campaign against gender-based violence and work with victims, Tamu Bakery is unique in this field. Firstly, it is the only organization to utilize baking as a therapy with women victims of gender- based violence. Secondly, Tamu Bakery uses the medium of cake to communicate with the general public about the issue of GBV - raising awareness when usually the audience would avoid such topics. Thirdly, the rapport build with workshop participants provides a unique insight into the lives of women affected by GBV, which helps produce insightful training programs.

Founding Story

After surviving a rare form of lung cancer at 25, Yana decided to be "the change she wanted to see in the world". She moved on from her work in journalism, and started working in human rights. Through this work she found out about the issue of female genital mutilation and decided to volunteer in Kenya with Maasai girls affected by this abuse. One of the activities she did with the girls was baking. Baking had really helped her through her illness - and she was struck by how well it worked as a therapeutic technique with the girls there too. On her return to the UK she set up Tamu Bakery to help victims of GBV through the power of baking.


Yana Spencer works in close partnership with management and volunteers at the specific women's organizations she partners with around the world.