When women find their voice: A success story

Nurlia led a village health post and worked as a money lender when she was encouraged to get involved in formation of a women's economic group in Oxfam's Restoring Coastal Livelihoods project in South Sulawesi, Indonesia.

Nurlia, age 38, not only got involved, she became the group's driving force, motivating other women in the hamlet of Boddie to participate and zeroing in on literacy as a key early step to success.

Many of the women in the group asked to be taught to read and write, enabling them to have a direct say for the first time in economic planning by local authorities. Nurlia was delighted. “I used to be too scared to go to meetings in the village because I couldn't read and write.”

The 20 women in the group share sales profits from their work raising 50 ducks, making salted eggs, dried meat, dried milkfish, jam from pedada (the fruit of the mangrove tree) and managing milkfish ponds.

Nurlia's creativity and initiative help this group move forward and grow. Lack of knowledge is no obstacle. “I ask other people who know, and learn from them.” She persuaded some women to join by approaching their husbands and asking, “How would you like your wife to earn some extra cash to add to what you earn as a fisher?”

Nurlia had the self-confidence to seek support from local authorities for the group's participation in an industry and trade agency cooperative. When no reply was forthcoming for a week, the group descended on government offices to successfully press their case.

“Women here don't have to ask their husbands for money anymore, because they have their own money,” says Nurlia. Once reluctant to attend village meetings because they were unable to sign their own names and to speak up, the women now have the confidence to actively participate.

“I didn't even know what a development planning meeting was, and then on 12 February 2012, I went to one for the first time and was asked to talk about salted eggs. I was also interviewed by someone from CIDA. I was so nervous and my hands were freezing!”

CIDA, the Canadian International Development Agency, funds the 2010-2015 Restoring Coastal Livelihoods project implemented by Oxfam Canada and local partners through 60 village economic groups in South Sulawesi province. Key activities are rehabilitation of depleted mangrove forests, training in food production, processing and marketing, and empowering women to participate in development of enterprise.

Nurlia told the development planning meeting about how she wanted improvements for women in her hamlet, to reduce poverty through literacy, producing dried fish and processing mangrove products. “I do with my hands what's in my heart.” That's the motto and spirit behind Nurlia's mission to make her dreams come true.

Thanks to Nurlia for telling the story of how her community has improved as a result of the support of Oxfam Canada and Indonesian partners through the Restoring Coastal Livelihoods project, funded 90 per cent by the Canadian International Development Agency.

To support more programs like this, please donate to Oxfam Canada.