A man poses in traditional Indonesian wedding attire on a wedding altar constructed by a woman's group. Newlywed couples rent the altar to greet family and friends who offer their blessings and gifts for a happy future.
The glistening silver beading and fabric contrast against the deep green velvet of the traditional Indonesian wedding altar. A plush seat for two in the middle is framed by ornamental draped tapestries. Just one look at the ceremonial altar would make anyone smile, especially the 25 women in Meunasah Pulo who constructed it and have earned sustainable incomes by renting it.
These women are part of a group called “Nurul Fajar”—
meaning sunshine. They live on the west coast of Sumatra Island, Indonesia, an area devastated by the 2004 tsunami. Since that time, weddings have held a special significance to people in the area, helping the community put the past behind them and celebrate their futures.
The women joined together to form a savings and loan group, supported by CCF and working as ChildFund Indonesia to help families affected by the tsunami.
Initially the group had trouble reaching a consensus on how best to invest their loans. Their organizer spent two weeks convincing members to combine their loans to create one business instead of taking individual loans to form separate businesses. This decision was the key to the success that followed for the members of Nurul Fajar. After the tsunami, a number of organizations offered individual grants instead of loans so some women weren’t interested in group loans from CCF. Convincing the women to go in together on one loan was no small feat.
Eventually, they decided to use the money to buy green velvet fabric, tools, decorations and platforms to build traditional wedding houses called 'peulamin.' Knowing the value of a good product, they hired an instructor to teach them how to build the altars and purchased a secured space to store their materials. For the first three months, while the women worked tirelessly to construct their altar, they sold soap, fish and other items to meet their monthly repayment obligations for the group's loan of 25 million ruppiah— about $2,750.
Once the group completed their peulamin, they displayed it at a two-day trade fair, held to promote businesses recovering from the disaster. The first day they booked nine rentals—at one million ruppiah per day; the second day they made enough bookings to pay off their remaining debt.
To maintain a steady business, the women decided to swap alters with other groups to maintain their customers’ interest. With a steady business under way, the women were improving their livelihood and their communities, while also bringing happiness to many newly married couples.
Funding for the ChildFund Indonesia loan program came from two of CCF’s partnering organizations, ChildFund Australia and CCF Kinderhilfswerk in Germany.
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