Entrepreneurial skills empower women of East Nusa Tenggara to build businesses

Women in East Nusa Tenggara (NTT) benefit from the ILO training programmes held with its partners. The women participants are able to increase their incomes and realize their dreams. These are the stories of Bibi Dida and Semaya Atamai.

Feature | East Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia | 04 November 2021
For Sisilia Francisca Winga or Bibi Ida, she used to be called, weaving has become the centre of her life. It is not only an important skill for women of Kampung Adat Nggela in Wolojita district, Ende Regency, East Nusa Tenggara (NTT) where she is from, but also a source of livelihood to finance the education of their children.

Sisilia Francisca Winga or Bibi Dida
Bibi Dida has been woven fabrics for 29 years since her twenties. She has been selling her fabrics for daily clothes or for traditional ceremonies. The woven fabric, known as kain tenun, plays an important part in the lives of people in NTT. Her income from weaving has become the sole income when her husband passed away in 2004, making her a breadwinner for her two children.

This is the only skills that we know and we need to find ways to market our tenun."

Sisilia Francisca Winga or Bibi Dida
She earns Rp 1 to 2 million (US$71-142) for every piece of tenun she sold. She gets higher for organic tenun using natural dyes. “It takes between two and six months to produce one piece of tenun. An organic tenun with natural dyes takes even longer and can be years. Although it is not large, my earning is enough to support my family until the pandemic,” she told.

Restrictions of social movement and weakening of the economy due to the pandemic have plummeted the sales of tenun as people has shifted their focus on main necessities. However, women in Kampung Adat Nggela, including Bibi Dida, has continued to weave. “This is the only skills that we know and we need to find ways to market our tenun,” said Bibi Dida.

Her resilience in preserving fabric weaving paid off when she joined the training and mentoring programme held by Kami Latu Initiative and Yayasan Rame-Rame Jakarta in the mid of this year. Under the theme ‘Independent with Weaving’, the programme was part of the Employment and Livelihood joint project supported by ILO and several other United Nations (UN) agencies in Indonesia and funded by the UN COVID-19 Response and Recovery Multi-Partner Trust Fund (UN MPTF).

The training, held online in July 2021 and ended with a face-to-face class in mid-August, encouraged Bibi Dida and her fellow woman weavers to learn simple financial management, create weaving patterns for other various products such as accessories and jewelry and present an interesting story about their products to increase sales.

We deeply hope that this programme can empower the women of Kampung Adat Nggela so that they are able to support their family while sustaining a valuable cultural inheritance, such as tenun."

Navitri Putri Guillaume, ILO’s Project Officer
When finished the training, Bibi Dida began to promote her weaving products by sharing the journey of each tenun piece. She also set the price based on the knowledge she gained by calculating labour and time costs. As a result, utilizing a digital marketing through WhatsApp, she managed to sell a pundi-pattern fabric at a higher price of Rp 2 million (US$142).

“We deeply hope that this programme can empower the women of Kampung Adat Nggela so that they are able to support their family while sustaining a valuable cultural inheritance, such as tenun,” Navitri Putri Guillaume, ILO’s Project Officer, said.

She is now motivated to create new products like earrings and necklace from a high-quality tenun and expand her market using a new network she built during the training. “My new products will be sold at a souvenir shop in a tourism area of Maumere whom I get acquainted during the training,” she beamed with happiness.

Business expansion for building a dream house

The new entrepreneurial spirit of Bibi Dida was felt by Semaya Atamai, 29 years old, who lives in the capital city of NTT, Kupang with her husband and four children. To get additional income for the family, Semaya sells snacks made from fried waxy corn. Corn is a staple food for people of NTT and corn snacks are popular.

Semaya Atamai is frying waxy corns for her snack business
Before the pandemic, she could earn Rp 300,000 (US$21) per day, selling snacks to office buildings near her residence. However, work-from-home policy and movement restriction have made her income fell by 80 percent. Her family has to solely depend on her husband’s salary as an honorary worker of NTT’s National Land Agency (BPN).

“With the loss of our additional income, our dream to buy a land and build our dream also seems to fade away,” shared Semaya who has been staying at one of the BPN’s guest houses.

Through this approach, I only make orders by requests and can maintain quality and freshness of my products and ensure my customers."

Semaya Atamai
Yet, she refused to fall into despair and continued to seek opportunity to maintain her business. With information she gathered from a friend, Semaya signed up to participate in an online entrepreneurship training held by the Research Agency of Artha Wacana Christian University (Lemlit UKAW) and business development consultancy RIWANI Globe in July 2021.

The training was part of the Employment and Livelihood project, aimed to support youth, women and other vulnerable groups to build and develop their business amid the COVID-19 pandemic. “We believe that by providing opportunities for women and other vulnerable groups to start their own ventures and generate incomes will result in positive outcomes not only for the participants and their families but also the society in the long term,” said Budi Maryono, ILO’s Entrepreneurship Specialist.

We believe that by providing opportunities for women and other vulnerable groups to start their own ventures and generate incomes will result in positive outcomes not only for the participants and their families but also the society in the long term."

Budi Maryono, ILO’s Entrepreneurship Specialist
With knowledge gained from the entrepreneurship training, Semaya began to overhaul her business strategy, starting with recalculating the production cost, setting appropriate selling price and renewing the marketing plan. Learning that customers look for high quality and freshly produced goods, she applies a new marketing strategy by producing her products using a pre-order approach.

“Through this approach, I only make orders by requests and can maintain quality and freshness of my products and ensure my customers’ satisfaction,” she said.

In addition, she is also able to tap an opportunity to sell her products at a store managed by the NTT’s National Crafts Council (Dekranasda), an organization that helps local businesses promoting local products. This access to a new market has increased her production capacity and income. Thus, she is confident that her entrepreneurial knowledge could help her improving her business and realizing her dream to build a home for her family.

“Based on the information I learnt from Lemlit UKAW’s trainers, I can expand my market to Dekranasda. This makes ma realize that as long as we are able to see and seize a rising opportunity, however small it is, we can get a positive outcome from the current COVID-19 pandemic,” concluded Semaya.