Wonder Women to the Rescue

The number of COVID-19 cases continues to increase across Indonesia, and the pandemic is severely impacting people’s livelihoods across the country. However, several women entrepreneurs who are part of the Wonder Women Program in Tuban, East Java have captured an opportunity to help their communities, as well as themselves and their families. through the production of much-needed face masks. 

According to the Government’s official website (tubankab.go.id), as of 14 July, there were 149 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Tuban. This has resulted in the closure of many public places including markets, and has had a significant impact on the local economy, with many people struggling to fulfill their basic needs. 

Siti Mahmudah, a Tuban-based tailor who joined the Wonder Women Program at the beginning of the year, has been personally affected by the crisis and was struggling to make ends meet with her tailoring enterprise.

Siti Mahmudah made the shift from making clothes to producing cloth masks since the COVID-19 pandemic hit Tuban, East Java.

“The Eid Mubarak celebration is typically the peak season for my tailoring business as families normally celebrate the special day with new outfits,” said Mahmudah. This year’s Eid, in May 2020, however, was very different. The pandemic led to many changes to people's lives. They were required to celebrate Eid Mubarak at home and were restricted from visiting their relatives due to social distancing regulations. People's income also decreased significantly, which meant that they were not spending money on new outfits. As a result, Mahmudah’s business suffered.

Nevertheless, Mahmudah didn’t give up. Instead, she was quick to see a new business opportunity during the pandemic - the production of cloth masks. The Government of Indonesia issued a recommendation for people to wear masks whenever they go out in public. Cloth masks therefore became a daily necessity for everyone, in order to slow down the spread of the virus. The demand for cloth masks sky-rocketed. Mahmudah quickly learned how to make cloth masks and started to produce three-layer cotton masks.

The cloth masks produced by Siti Mahmudah and her new overlocker machine that she bought using income earned from cloth mask sales.

With marketing support from the Kopernik team, and the placement of a large order of several hundred masks from ExxonMobil Cepu Limited (EMCL), a large order from the Industrial and Trade Office (Disperindag) in Tuban, as well as producing masks for Kopernik’s emergency response program - Mahmudah’s income was significantly boosted.

In fact, in April 2020 alone, her income increased by more than 12 times (1,246%) as compared to her income prior to the pandemic. With the profit, Mahmudah purchased an overlocker machine to make the production process more efficient.

Mahmudah is not the only Wonder Woman who is flourishing during the pandemic. Sriyatmi and Lasmani, have also pivoted their small businesses to begin producing cloth masks. Sriyatmi and Lasmani received large cloth mask orders from their Village Administration Office, UPZIS (The Management Unit for Islamic Financial Instruments), as well as numerous resellers. 

Lasmani, Kopernik Wonder Woman, producing cloth masks at her home.

The Wonder Women program is supported by the Women’s Economic Empowerment Program of the ExxonMobil Foundation.