International Women's Day is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women - while also marking a call to action to accelerate gender balance.
Every day of the year SurfAid strives to improve gender equality. In SurfAid projects, women are active water committee members, community health volunteers, and pioneers in small business. Siti Romelah is just one of the many remarkable women working with SurfAid to make an impact in her community.
Siti is the Head Kader at her local posyandu (community health post) in the village of Hiliduho, Nias. With training and support from SurfAid staff, kaders (community health volunteers) work together with the local health department to deliver health messages on nutrition, hygiene, and sanitation.
In addition to health services, SurfAid also supports kader groups to establish small businesses. These small businesses are used to fund Posyandu activities and provide income for women. SurfAid provides micro grants, training and staff to coach the kader groups in business management and analysis.
Siti and her Posyandu benefitted from a SurfAid micro grant and are currently profiting from the sales of two products. Not only is the income improving posyandu services, it has taught Siti independence and confidence.
SurfAid staff in Indonesia sat down with Siti to learn more about her experience as a Head Kader, working mother and leader in her community. Siti is a testament to the perseverance of women around the globe and we are proud to share her story.
INTERVIEW WITH IBU SITI ROMELAH
(translated by Adzwari Ridzki)
Tell us a bit about yourself?
My name is Siti Romelah. I was born in Ponorogo, East Java. My husband is from Nias and I came here with him in 2002. I had been actively involved in posyandu activities in my village, Hiliduho, for 12 years when I was selected as the Head of Kader Posyandu. Our team worked hard and were recognised for our efforts with an award from the District Government honouring our efforts to improve mother and child health services.
You are also actively involved in group business activity, tell us more about that?
Our Posyandu started a business to provide income for kaders and financial support for posyandu activities. Our business is called Si Manis (or The Sweet One). Currently we have two products, banana chips and purple sweet potato sticks.
With a micro grant of 200,000 IDR ($12 USD) we started our banana chip business and it earned a profit of 600.000 IDR ($36 USD) – tripling our investment. The income was small, but we didn’t stop there: we want our business to grow!
We had some initial challenges, including problems with the production of purple sweet potato sticks. While working on solutions for taste and texture, we continued to work on our banana chip business, and a year later we are happy with both products. This year we are excited because our products are sold in Gunung Sitoli (the district capital) market, and we’re continuing to improve our business.
What are some of the challenges of becoming an active woman in your community?
There are many challenges, especially when it comes to balancing household needs with work. We try to help our families understand how these business helps our community and have learned to be good at managing our time. Both businesses are time consuming, so it is important to have family support, especially from our husbands.
What makes you proud to be a woman and what makes you feel confident in your ability to continue the activity?
I am proud that women can do a lot of things that men cannot do. For example, in addition to running our businesses, we help our husbands, our families and tend to household matters. As a woman, I learn a lot from the women’s activities at the Posyandu. When I have considered resigning as a community health volunteer, I wonder who, if not for us kaders, would encourage and educate women in our communities. I also like children and helping mothers learn how to care for their children so that they can grow up healthy and resilient.
What do you think the role of women should be?
Women should be active, independent and not afraid to try new things, so they can personally develop and have equal opportunity to men. However, I still recognise the importance of a woman’s role at home and with her family.
The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day celebration is #BalanceforBetter. Balance drives a better world and thanks to women like Siti Romelah, we are getting closer every day. To support women like Siti or SurfAid’s micro-grant projects, please donate today.