Women Entrepreneurs in the Villages
The past two weeks of interviews with people in the villages of Bojonegoro have helped me understand so much more about their lives, and more specifically about how women are helping support their families through their entrepreneurial activities. The women we interviewed are involved in a variety of small home-based enterprises involving snack food processing, livestock, handicrafts, farming, and retail.
Saiyem, from the village of Ngarho, is one of the amazing women I interviewed. Saiyem makes and sells Ledre, a traditional Javanese snack made from rice flour and various fruits. She grows all raw materials on her own land, and does the preparation, cooking, and packaging in her very primitive home kitchen. Her Ledre snacks have gained popularity in her village, even winning second place in a regional competition. Saiyem continues to fulfill steady orders from village distributors, but is overwhelmed by the formalities of registering and marketing her product, and thus discouraged from doing so. This is a photo of our interview, during which she was making Ledre.
Luluk is another impressive entrepreneur from Begadon village with whom I had the pleasure to meet. This 23-year-old girl graduated from an Islamic boarding school, and is married with a four-year-old daughter. Luluk makes a variety of snack foods from pumpkins and peanuts, and is determined to develop and expand her business by, among other things, purchasing more advanced equipment and hiring more employees. She wants to formally register trademarks for her products and create more appealing packaging so that she can sell to the big supermarkets.
Jiin is from Gayam whom Amar and I interviewed on our first day in the field. She owns a small cottage where she raises sheep and sells them both on the open market and to individual distributors. She has no comprehensive education or training in business management, but inherently understands and is practicing the concept of reinvesting earnings to grow the business. She learned many things as an administrator in a MCL-sponsored cattle farm that have helped her raise her sheep more successfully. Now she wants to learn more business management skills and cost reduction techniques in order to increase her profits (her cottage doesn't have the same pungent smell as other cottages, as she has added special ingredients to the water). She was proud to show us around, telling us many people from other areas come to learn from her.
There were many other impressive women I interviewed, all of whom are hard working, willing to explore and take advantage of the resources available, and happy to share their success with their peers. With more resources and better opportunities, I am sure all of these women will be able to grow their businesses.
By Tammy Liu