I am a young Dayak Benuaq woman. I was born, raised and now work in my village, Tanjung Isuy, Kutai Barat district, East Kalimantan province, Indonesia. The Dayak are the indigenous people found on the island of Borneo. The Dayak Benuaq are a sub-tribe of the Dayak. In my village we still practice the Dayak Benuaq cultural in all aspects of our lives. The livelihood of women is influenced by culture. One of the unique traditions of the women in Tanjung Isuy village is weaving “doyo” cloth. Doyo cloth or “tenun” doyo is a hand woven, Ikat (technique of tying and dyeing) cloth made of leaf fiber.
We also dance a traditional dance. Visitors sometimes come to our village to see our dances and weaving tradition.
The main livelihood here is from rubber gardens. Previously, we lived off of natural forest products, including getting materials for hand woven “doyo” cloth making as well as natural dyes. Now much of the forest has been converted into palm oil plantations. So a lot of forest is gone and we now manage forest gardens.
My dream, is that Benuaq culture is maintained. That our identity is maintained and is not replaced with modern culture. In my dreams, I hope that women can continue to weave hand woven “doyo” cloth, that our forest gardens are a source of material for weaving and other livelihoods and that they too are not converted to palm oil plantations. I have started taking steps to fulfill my dream. I have established my own craft business making hand woven “doyo” products. In my business I have involved several women around me, including my mother, so that women can have greater income. I design products from hand woven “doyo” cloth that are suitable for young people so that they can use and love “doyo” just like I do! I promote the culture of weaving hand woven “doyo” cloth in local, national and international events, so that our traditional “doyo” cloth can be widely known. I formed a traditional dance group for children, teaching them our traditional dances. Sometimes, I use my own money to finance their performances, to made them proud of their culture. I formed a sports group of women, as a place for women to support each other and be strong in the face on life’s problems, teaching them to maintain a healthy body, because women need a healthy body & soul to take care of their families and earn money. I started to write stories of our ancestors from what I heard from my parents from verbal story-telling tradition.
In the future I want to establish a Learning House of Dayak Benuaq Culture, a medium to learn and to build love for Dayak Benuaq Culture, a place to learn and nurture love of Dayak Benuaq culture. I hope in future, in my village, there continue to be doyo and natural dyes in our forest gardens and these can be used for hand woven “doyo” cloth materials. My bigger dream is that our village of Tanjung Isuy, Subdistrict of Jempang becomes recognized as a Doyo weaver’s village so Dayak Benuaq culture and craft in Tanjung Isuy will sustain and can be enjoyed by everyone. By choosing me, you support and assist me in continuing the work I have done and so I can fulfill my dreams for the Dayak Benuaq people. I know I am not alone, there are you (voters) who also care about culture, wowen empowerment and the environment.
My greatest professional accomplishment is that I have been able to promote the “doyo” traditional hand woven textile/ cloth at the local level (district, capital city of province), national level (in the national capital of Jakarta through national exhibitions and fairs ), and even at the international level (Singapore Meet the Makers Fair – May 2017), Malaysia – Non-Timber Forest Products Carnival December 2016, Philippines – National Commission for Culture and Arts –NCCA Indigenous Peoples Festival October 2017). Winner of the traditional motif design contest in Kutai Barat district 2017.
Many people around me think weaving is not a promising job and that its an ancient practice that maybe should be left to history. Working in government or in big companies is much cooler than being a weaver. I have proven that that was not true. From weaving I earn money. I have had the opportunity to travel to the capital city (Jakarta), and to travel overseas for the promotion of weaving culture. My networks have grown (locally, and internationally), from weaving. I learned a lot of about how need to care about the environment, about weaver’s health, product quality and sustainable business development (from government and NGOs programmes). And it helped make me more aware, improve my practices and that of my business.
Secondly, when my family went thru financial difficulties after our house burned. In July of 2014 there was a big fire in the village, 44 houses burned including my parents’ house. After that we did not have anything just the clothes on our bodies. We lived in an unoccupied teacher’s home for sometime. My parents and I worked hard to meet daily needs. We bought new weaving tools, new cooking tools. I work as a nutritionist, I also made and sold hand woven “doyo” products. I also sold birthday cakes and did other activities to make money. Now the house we occupy is simply furnished and repaired, although we do not have our own home yet. My business has also grown much more than before our house was burned. Thirdly, there are women who have their own cake business from learning together with me. Finally, now there is a new generation of youth who love our culture as they have learned from the traditional children’s dance group.
I think to be a strong woman, women should have knowledge and also skills. This is what I believe in and this is why i went to nutrition school in the capital city. To be able to go to school in Jakarta I struggled, I had to take several tests, appealed to the government to be included me in the nutrition education program from the region to the capital city which at that time was only dedicated to men, and convinced my parents that I could live in the capital city without them. And I succeeded, got a scholarship from the government with some conditions. I graduated and got in top 3. Now I am back to serve my village as a nutritionist. I learned to weave from my mother, I learned by my self how to make products from hand woven “doyo” cloth. I learned traditional dance taught myself how to make and sell cakes to have income to survive. I pass on all this knowledge and to the women around me. I formed a women’s sports group, as a safe space for women to be strong for each other in the face on life’s problems, teaching them to maintain a healthy body. I established a handicraft and cake business, involving women around me in my business so they have extra income. I taught women to do product development of hand woven “doyo” so they can grow their business. I taught children traditional dance so that they can be proud of and love the Dayak Benuaq culture. Women who have knowledge and skills and their own income have a bargaining position in the family and within the community and outside the community too.
There are 3 things that I find inspiring from the Purse of the People website:
1. Care for the environment. Our Dayak Benuaq people care for the environment by sustainably managing resources like rattan and other products. I also very much like that Purse for the People promotes slow fashion so that the industry is not so oriented to the over- extraction of raw materials.
2. Care for women, Purse for the People promotes a marketing channel where products made by women can be featured and sold. And where there is an advocacy behind the product. That’s very important for me. I’m also glad that these products are also intended for women, So products by women and for women
3. Design products for young people . All in all, this inspires me to continue developing products which campaign for gender fair, natural & traditional products but those that are appreciated in the modern day and are not outdated.
I think the # gratitude4thegoddess movement is a movement that encourages people to support each other, in particular women, to strengthen their ability to eliminate injustice, promote equity and justice. To promote nature that is safe from destruction and that is to be enjoyed by our children and grandchildren. This is in line with what I do. We need to support each other so that each person, especially women, can live independently with their knowledge and skills and so there is no discrimination. Through gender balance and ecological balance, we can conserve the earth and our culture.
I think sustainable living or environmental justice is all about humans can exist by treating the environment fairly, by not damaging the environment, by not polluting the environment. How can humans co-exist with nature. This is important because if we don’t take care of the environment around us, the time will come when this may also lead to the question of the sustainability of human life. In my work as a nutritionist, I have the duty to educate the public to maintain the cleanliness of the environment in which they live and the environment in which they work because a clean environment means healthy families and the ecosystem around. As entrepreneurs and weaving artisans, our materials, we are very dependent on the availability of “doyo” leaves and dye plants that grow in our forest gardens and in the natural forest. “Doyo” plants and natural dye plants can be available if their habitat is not disturbed nor converted. “Doyo” entrepreneurs and weavers like me, are helping to protect the environment where “doyo” plants thrive, especially on the edge of forests. By making the doyo textiles and using natural dyes, we create an incentive to care for their plant sources as they contribute to the income of the weavers as well.