Staying Skilled to Survive

26 August 2020
Author: Amron Hamdi

Homeworkers, given their place on the supply chain, are some of the workers who are most vulnerable to effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some homeworkers’ incomes have declined, and others have lost their incomes altogether as workorders from their employees have ceased. In Dagang Kelambir Village, Deli Serdang Regency the women homeworkers union is being supported by the Foundation for Rural Capacity Building (BITRA) — a MAMPU partner – for improving employment conditions for women. Women in this homeworkers’ union were trained how to make and market face masks to fulfil their daily needs.

“Because the factory didn’t have any more orders, I couldn’t work to earn an income. However, after we started sewing masks, the economic situation of my household has been greatly helped,” explained Mislam, who has worked as a homeworker for the past 16 years.

Currently there are 12 homeworkers producing cloth face masks. Although they are just starting out, the two-layered masks, which sell for IDR 5,000 (approximately AUD .50c) are in high demand both from BITRA and from government agencies. “Actually, people don’t expect the government to fulfil all their needs, but people need to be provided with knowledge and skills. When these women are skilled, they will be able to survive,” explained Rosmawati, Manager of the Women Homeworkers Empowerment Program, BITRA.

Helping Village Communities Fight the Impact of COVID-19

In addition to providing assistance to improve the economic situation of women homeworkers, BITRA is also actively involved in efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19. BITRA’s ‘COVID-19 Prevention and Emergency Response’ program disseminates information and personal protective equipment to rural communities. “The main target of this emergency response activity is vulnerable groups in rural areas, such as women, the elderly and people with disabilities. The rest are farmers and other rural community members,” said Rusdiana, Executive Director of BITRA Indonesia.

BITRA also installs posters and banners throughout villages and appears on community radio dialogues to convey information about the spread of COVID-19. In Pulau Gambar Village, Serdang Bedagal Regency, BITRA volunteers travel from village to village to provide information about COVID-19 and educate residents about wearing masks and hygienic practices.

BITRA has also distributed a total of 5,000 personal protective equipment (PPE) packs to assist villages spread across 9 districts in North Sumatra. The packs contain PPE in the form of a masks and are also complete with hand sanitisers and traditional herbal medicine, as well as information leaflets about COVID-19. “We did this because when COVID-19 entered Indonesia, we had difficulty finding masks, hand sanitisers and vitamins in our area. This is what we are doing to help the government procure these items for the community,” explained Rusdiana.