Restoring Faith: Women Entrepreneurs in Post-tsunami Aceh

Adawiyah, Aceh Batik Trainer and Emboider
Written by 
Maida Irawani

“I was only a housewife and only did domestic chores but now live changes.” The 2004’s tsunami destroyed our home and lives. We were survived from the tsunami but we had nothing left except what we had in our body. We displaced to a safe area located around 2 km from our home and live together under the tents with hundreds of people who also lost their everything on that tragic natural disaster. Life was difficult for us as we relied on the aids and supports from donors or NGOs. My husband could not work as the school where my husband work as a teacher was also vanished.

I did not lose hope and faith because of the condition that we faced, I did what ever I could do to survive. When I was young, I used to be able to play rebana or tambourine, this skill helped me to become one of the village facilitator to teach the children in a displaced camp. For about two years, I was recruited to support in psychosocial activity, teaching the children how to play rebana and Islamic Nasheed. It was in 2007 when we decided to return to our village and rebuild back our lives. I participated on some vocational training such as sewing, embroidery and was selected to be one out of 40 villagers who participated on Batik training in Java and later became the member of Rumoh Batik Cooperatives, a new livelihood concept developed by Indonesian Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Agency to restore the community livelihood in my village. We received supports from training, tools, capital, assistances in management and marketing, and also network. It was successful at the beginning, we received many orders both from government and publics and often being invited in exhibitions. However, this glory came to an end by 2010 as the orders and selling was decreased in numbers due to the decrease of the quality of our products and also our product could not compete in the market as people prefer to buy Java Batik as the price is cheaper than Aceh Batik.

Photo Courtesy: Joanne Petrina

The business and motivation of the members were starting decayed. No more selling unless if there was requested to participate on some exhibitions. I was as the treasurer in the cooperatives and I feel responsible to help this cooperative, at least to sell the remaining products in some exhibition so the Batik that we had produced would not destroyed by itself and the support that we received will not useless.  I confess that it is not easy to keep running the business when most of the members are not having the same motivation. I love making batik but I could not make it by myself. I am not give up because I really feel the benefits of having Batik skill. Even though we are not producing any more Batik but I often being invited to be a trainer for Batik training conducted by government or NGOs since couple years ago. I saved the money that I received as a Batik trainer to continue my education in teacher training faculty in 2010. I graduated couple years a go and now I am so happy that I become a teacher in one of the Islamic school in Banda Aceh. Part of becoming a teacher and Batik trainer, together with other women, I established sewing and embroidery groups in this village so we can use our spare time to earn money to support our families and to enhance our skill by keep applying it. There will always the challenges but the most important thing is supporting and empowering each other, then it will condense the burden. 

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