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Have you ever heard of Seram Island? It is located north of Ambon Island in Indonesia. Since 2003, Seram Island had been divided into three regencies: Central Maluku with Masohi as its capital, Eastern Seram (SBT), and Western Seram (SBB). I am working to develop women’s communities in Western Seram which has abundant natural resources. Initially, these natural resources were ignored because of “mismanagement”. Also, this region is (in)famous for its high level of crime rates and communal conflict among indigenous communities.

Poverty and lack of education are two of the major problems in Central Maluku. Communal conflicts often happen as a result of a succession of village chief (conflict among villages), alcohol consumption, limited economic resources and disputed region territory. This situation gets worse during a famine or the drought season. In these circumstances, women play a greater role to meet the families’ needs despite limited job opportunities. Women bear a lot of the burden of making ends meet for their families and they have been impoverished by the system.

Nuruwe village is one of the indigenous villages “trapped” in this situation. I am very familiar with this village. The sea in Nuruwe is very clean, the waves are not so big, and the beach is not polluted. It is a perfect location for seaweed nurseries. It provides a distinct advantage for villagers to increase their income from dried seaweed. The Nuruwe residents need technical skills, not only to cultivate seaweed, but also management skills. To meet their needs, LPPM (Lembaga Partisipasi Pembangunan Masyarakat or Community Development Participation Institution) conducted vocational training for women on seaweed processing.

The modules consist of building business character, marketing and simple bookkeeping. The training participants are encouraged to participate actively and communicate their ideas to form business groups. The training is done by raising the participation of village government and villagers who work as seaweed farmers. We provide farmers’ groups with dried seaweed until they become independent.

After the training, participants formed a group they named Bina Masadah. Bina in Nuruwe means “women”, while Masadah stands for “there is always hope”. So Bina Masadah reflects the struggle of women to advance themselves amid a culture that subordinated them. The group also received support from the Western Seram Department of Industry and Trade.

Bina Masadah launched their products initially in a small scale. They also get their PIRT or Licensing for Household Industry. Bina Masadah has been able to organize a group initiative from the planning, production, and marketing and to practice the good production process. Group revenue or equitable sharing is calculated based on the workload and the amount of product produced by each group member. The most important is that members receive full support of their families.

It is a proud moment for me to see the members of Bina Masadah try to maintain their commitment and motivation to participate actively in the trainings and in post-trainings in running a business. Nuruwe residents are proud of Bina Masadah products because these products will change the stereotype of the Nuruwe village as a poor village with high crime rates.

The challenge I felt during the process is the team work. Maluku residents are renowned for their lack of trust among themselves and their division of labor is not clear. Therefore, we encourage groups to actively establish interpersonal communication and independently evaluate the achievement of the group. Another challenge was the limited availability of cash in order to increase production, so their turnover is very small.

But I strongly believe that with collective action, we can grow bigger from these small steps.

About the Author

Noni Tuharea first joined JASS’ movement building institute (MBI) in Indonesia in 2011. In 2013, Noni took part in JASS’ and FAMM-Indonesia’s writeshop. In 2012 and 2014, representing FAMM- Indonesia, Noni joined the digital security workshop organized by Erotics Indonesia.

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