Womenesia is a service club at the Jakarta Intercultural School that works to empower women in Jakarta by providing them with skills and markets.
It is easy to immerse oneself in Jakarta’s malls, office buildings, and traffic. But the city is more than that. It’s also about community and its people. Which is why we need to give back to the community by serving others and to return the generosity that a community provides. Service allows one to play one’s part as a citizen and to make a change, even if it’s a small one.
Initially the JIS Womenesia club was working with XSProject and the Cirendeu trash-picker community to provide funding for tailoring training, sewing machines and fabrics. Some of these women are now sewing batik dresses that are being sold in the United States. More recently— with a different community—we have focused on designing products, together with the participating women, and bringing both their and our ideas to life.
The community we are currently collaborating with is Yayasan Biji Sesawi, (also known as the The Full Life Community). Yayasan Biji Sesawi was established by Ibu Maria Ann Samual. In her role as a coordinator of Yayasan Emmanuel’s Food Rescue programme she met women who were determined to create a better life for themselves and their children.
Ibu Maria set up YBS as a social empowerment programmes with the goal of helping its members to lead a richer life by learning skills such as sewing, handicrafts, book-keeping and English. The first members included unemployed married and unmarried mothers living in the poorest parts of Jakarta.
Today those earliest members are now some of the organisers and educators for the programme. The children of YBS members participate in after-school programmes and their educational needs are supported by YBS. YBS is currently established in North Jakarta, Tangerang and Magelang.
Our club organises regular visits between JIS and YBS. We meet with the women who have created the products and we learn how the products are made. We also discuss new designs and marketing plans. Once the women create the final products, the Womenasia club sells them at the campus shops and at JIS community events such as Family Fun Day and sporting meets. At a recent interschool swimming event over 100 bags were sold.
The money raised from sales goes directly to the women to support their families. Many Indonesian women are talented in being able to create beautifully crafted products, but what’s difficult is the ability to find a receptive market. Womenesia works to recognise the talents of the women and to provide some marketing opportunities. We hope to continue to collaborate on designs that we think will sell -as the women continue to create the beautiful handicrafts.
Working together with the local community has given us, as young women, the opportunity to engage in service and to view life in Jakarta from a new perspective. The opportunity to meet people outside our own community is one that we wouldn’t trade for anything. We have been able to establish personal friendships with the women and understand in a more empathetic way about some of the challenges of living in a huge city like Jakarta.
When we meet with the women we feel inspired by their passion and hard work—and we feel happy that we can make a difference. Despite the rise of inspiring influential women leaders, Indonesia still struggles with the idea of women becoming the breadwinner for a family. Womenasia wants to help these hard-working women improve their income by utilising their talents and promoting the products they make.
Text by Isabel Teo & Taylah Murphy. This article is originally from paper. Read NOW!Jakarta Magazine May 2018 issue “Building Future Leader”. Available at selected bookstore or SUBSCRIBE here.