Women learned skills to protect their businesses from the pandemic at an online fair supported by Prospera.

Asri Murtaningsih ran a successful small business in Jakarta before Covid-19 sewing traditional kebaya wedding dresses. But as a result of restrictions imposed to control the virus, all she can do today is make face coverings.

Despite this, Ms Asri became the family’s main earner after restrictions forced her husband to stop work as a driver for a ride-hailing firm.

“I have faced a lot of stress during the pandemic,” Ms Asri told a three-week online fair, known as Sesi Curhat Jakpreneur Perempuan, hosted on events app Whova between July 13th and July 30th.

Almost 1,000 women participated in the fair, supported by the Jakarta government, Prospera and private-sector companies, to support women and their businesses through the crisis.

Jakarta governor Anies Baswedan closed proceedings in a video message by emphasising the importance of collaboration.

“God willing, women Jakpreneur will be able to accelerate economic revival,” he said.

The event was designed in line with the results of a survey by Prospera of some 2,500 women who run small businesses to determine the support that would be of greatest use to them as they seek to survive the crisis and recover from it.

Women interacted directly with Indonesia’s leading technology companies Bukalapak, GoJek, Shopee and Tokopedia at virtual booths to learn digital skills to tap into a surge in online sales during the pandemic.

“We are gathered here for Curhat—to share our stories and find solutions to our problems,” said moderator Prita Laura.

Government officials were present to provide advice on how to raise capital and apply for permits. Participants also learnt about family finance, business management and how to cope with mental stress.

Almost 40,000 messages were sent, 1,122 photographs were shared, more than 2,500 people took part in training, and 92 community boards were created during the event.

“I have been able to take my skills and experience to the next level,” said Nailil Muna, whose small business at a school went bankrupt because of the pandemic.

Women’s businesses least likely to survive
The economic impact of Covid-19 has been especially severe for women. Previous research by Prospera showed that micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) owned by women were the least likely to survive the pandemic.

One reason is that women often run restaurants and retail businesses that have been hardest hit by public-health restrictions.

More recent research confirmed that proportion of women-owned businesses to have closed as a result of Covid-19 is twice as high as that for businesses owned by men.

School closures have stretched women’s time. Mothers are often the primary carers who support children’s remote learning but also engage in paid work to support their families.

Sri Haryati of the Jakarta government said that MSMEs run by women make an important contribution to Jakarta’s economy by creating employment and earnings.

“We need the help of external partners. This is a great initiative from Prospera and all collaborators.”

Todd Dias of Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said: “As a neighbouring country with shared interest, Australia prioritises support to the government of Indonesia. We are happy to contribute to this event through our Prospera program.”

Prospera economist Kartika Sari Juniwaty said that attending the fair through an app made it possible for women business owners to learn new skills, expand their communities, discuss their problem and hopefully find common solutions using only their smartphones.

“These solutions will provide opportunities for women to scale up their business when we enter the recovery period.”

For Ms Asri, one of the lessons from the past 18 months of pandemic is the importance of maintaining mental health.

She shares caring responsibilities with her husband and eldest child so that she has time to herself.

“Just having a cup of tea with some lemon at the end of the evening relaxes and recharges me. It helps me to remain optimistic that there is light at the end of tunnel.”

For further information contact: Bimbika Sijapati Basnett, Senior Adviser, Gender and Social Inclusion, bimbika.sbasnett@prospera.or.id