Weaving Their Way To Safe Pregnancy

[Video Credit: Darren Alexander Cole]

Losing one’s baby is a tragic and all too familiar tale to the women of East Nusa Tenggara, which has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in Southeast Asia. Du’Anyam is changing this by engaging pregnant women as artisanal weavers, providing them with a safer alternative to hard labour on the fields.

Shinta was 5-months pregnant with her fourth child. With no other employment options available, she was going to work in the fields until the day of her birth.

It is no mean feat to climb up the hill and back to the valley every day to either plant or harvest the crops, which means greatly increasing the risk of complication during delivery.

Unfortunately, with limited cash and no one to help her reach the clinic located 2 hours away, she was forced to do an emergency delivery on the side of the road.

Complications arose and it was too late to get to the clinic. Shinta lost her baby.

This is a tragic and all too familiar tale to the women of East Nusa Tenggara, which has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in Southeast Asia (neonatal mortality is six times that of developed countries).

The government has done its part to tackle the issue by improving health facilities, increasing awareness of modern delivery methods and encouraging pregnant women to save for birth-related expenses.

But, these have not been successful in changing maternal health behaviours, as mothers cannot spare or save the cash to begin with.

Amidst these challenges, one social enterprise saw an interesting opportunity to address maternal and newborn health issues by tapping into the existing wicker weaving traditions.

Du’Anyam is an abbreviation of Du’a Anyam, which literally means mothers weaving. They provide pregnant women with alternative employment to hard labour on the fields, which has health implications.

With alternative earnings, these women get a much needed supplement to family income of about IDR 500,000 (USD 37.18) which lets them save to cover pregnancy-related expenses.

They also educate young mothers by informing them of safer child birthing methods, thus improving their maternal health behaviors.

Since Du’Anyam started in 2014, they have touched the lives of 30-40 weavers who joined the cooperative.  About 70 women of Duntana Leowingu have also received training in weaving since Du’Anyam started to expand to neighboring areas.

These weavers produce around 700 pairs of slippers each month. In addition to slippers, they also produce beautiful and vibrant coloured hand-woven baskets, business card holders, tablet cases, purses and placemats.

The weavers also produce custom-made products targeted mostly to corporates including hotels in the islands nearby. 

Du’Anyam is on its way to ensuring that 10% of the income generated from weaving is allocated to pregnancy savings.

Currently, they are piloting an initiative to increase women’s nutrition through the purchase of healthy food using a part of the co-operative’s profits.

Du’Anyam’s team comes from various backgrounds and expertise like public health, non-profit, management consulting and marketing.

They have received numerous awards and recognition, like the Global Social Venture Competition 2015 and MIT Ideas Global Challenge 2014, an affirmation that they are indeed weaving a path to social good. 

Please visit their website to purchase these artisanal traditional wicker products while supporting safe pregnancies for Indonesian weavers.  

If you want to find more about socially conscious living in Asia, check out Asia For Good's social enterprise directory.

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