The Seascape Collective was founded in 2014 in Sampela, a remote Bajo village in Southeast Sulawesi, Indonesia.
It’s a business that makes handicrafts, such as yoga mats, handbags, meditation pillows and picture frames, using responsibly-harvested local resources and traditional techniques. There are now 12 ambitious women in the collective, all of whom love to work together to be creative.
The Bajo are a traditionally nomadic ethnic group who live in houseboats or in small communities of wooden stilt houses. Sampela is home to 1700 Bajo people, most of whom generate income directly from marine resources. They are welcoming people who, despite not having much money or many livelihood opportunities, are free-spirited and full of energy and positivity.
Despite the free nature of the Bajo people, opportunities are incredibly limited for women. Women are expected to take responsibility for most household activities, while men are responsible for putting food on the table. The primary goal of Seascape Collective is to promote gender equality by encouraging women to earn autonomous income through environmentally-sustainable means. Seascape Collective benefits the women of Sampela in three main ways:
Hanatia was left widowed after her husband left her for another woman, and has had to sell her house and move back in with her parents. While she spends all of her time looking for ways to earn money for her and her daughter, she can only make a fraction of a man’s income as she is restricted to low income activities such as baking cakes. Determined not to be reliant upon a man again, Hanatia said, ‘if I can make enough money with my business, I don’t want to get married.’ Seascape Collective is a realistic chance at financial independence. Within the first month of production, the Seascape women made enough money to buy a house in Sampela. As the business continues to grow, these Bajo women may be able to see marriage as an option rather than an obligation.
Hanatia wearing a hat she’s made
2. Decision-Making Power
The gender roles in Sampela mean that women have very little say in village politics; you can expect an all-male attendance at village meetings, which are guaranteed to be led by a male Kepala Desa (‘Village Head’). Even in the home, women feel they have little say in decisions, as they are so reliant upon their husbands. Women who earn autonomous income have been shown to hold increased bargaining power within the household, often leading to more spending on children’s education and family health. In this way, the collective leads to increased wellbeing for the women as well as their families.
As women already have so many household duties, it is important that they have the opportunity to socialise. Seascape allows members to earn a living by working together. Rusna says, ‘my favourite thing about Seascape is that I get to work with my friends; I learn a lot from them.’ As well as emotional benefits, working together has practical benefits. Working collectively builds social cohesion, meaning that members are not competing against each other but rather working side-by-side. Mina and Rusna often take on ‘babysitting duty’ while the others work. It also allows members to transfer knowledge and skills – Mbo Doah, the collective’s oldest member, passes traditional techniques down to other members, while Jumi often helps others with their weaving skills. Teamwork also allows financial resources to be pooled, which reduces vulnerability and increases competitiveness and efficiency in the market.
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Rusna selling a Seascape Collective yoga mat
Seascape Collective is only a small part of the solution to gender inequality, but it has given women a voice and a new power within the community. Most importantly, it has given them pride in themselves and in their community. Amissing neatly summarises this: ‘Seascape allows us to make new products and have different jobs. I want people to understand Sampela – it is not just a Bajo village – the people here are clever and are capable of doing many things’.
Amissing weaving a yoga mat
Seascape is now selling the products in locations outside of Sampela and Indonesia. Check out the website for information on where to buy the products. If you would be interested in stocking products Seascape products contact SeascapeCollective@gmail.com.