The Women Weavers Keeping Traditional Craft Alive with Natural Viscose

Empowering women and girls worldwide are among the United Nations’ Sustainable Development (SDG) Goal 5 on Gender Equality and Goal 10 Reduced Inequality


On this International Women’s Day (IWD), the campaign theme #choosetochallenge is a challenge to call out inequality and celebrate women’s achievements. Today, we celebrate the day to day achievements of one inspiring female entrepreneur in the growing city of Siak, Riau, who is not only confident in her abilities but dreams of developing the women around her, whose story we would like to present.

penenun kain songket melayu siak riau

She is Rostia Harlina as known as Yati, a forty-two years-old mother who has many roles in her life. She is a wife, mother, teacher at a Senior High School in Siak and a weaving entrepreneur who employs 17 women.

When we ask, why do you want to do it all? She explained that she did not intend to run a business in the first place, but she had to take over the family business as the only daughter.

songket tenun siak riau

She said that her mother introduced her to Siak weaving (also known as Songket) as part of their cultural heritage passed down from the Siak kingdom.

“My mother is a person who inspires me, she is the one who taught me how to weave, so this is what moved me to continue running the business when she died.”

Yati took over the business in 2011 and admitted the first year was not easy for her because she didn’t have experience running a business.

“It took three years for me to be able to run it stably, I learned time management from scratch, and I approached all workers so that they can work in the right flow,” Yati added.

With her persistence, Yati managed to run her business well while also working as a biology teacher at MAN 1 Siak.

“The key is to be good at time management and consistency. As women, it is our instinct to be able to become multitaskers, waking up to take care of our husband and children, then teaching at school and checking on the workers at the workshop,” said Yati.

With her busy teaching schedule, she sometimes has to juggle responsibilities. “I have to remain professional without putting my students aside. For that, I always provide appointments with customers only in the afternoon after teaching.”

In recognition of weaving in local heritage and supporting local craftsmanship in the region, APR’s community development team first visited Yati’s weaving workshop in November 2020. It started to work with Yati, improving her weaving techniques using APR’s natural viscose rayon yarn.

“I honestly have never used viscose rayon yarn before. At first, I was curious and excited and immediately explored this yarn. The results were beautiful, soft to touch and good for weaving,” Yati admitted.

She expressed her relief when she met APR. She had long dreamed of having a partner to develop the unique Siak weave. The Siak Songket weave is from the local culture of Riau that is rich in local wisdom and history.

According to Yati, Songket is often associated with traditional clothes. Still, she thinks that modern fashionable design can be incorporated into the weave designs to make bags, wedding dresses, and other products that cater to trendy consumers.

APR’s Community Development Coordinator, Metti Haryanti, confirmed the company’s support for the weaving house managed by Yati.

“The company sees Yati’s talent and potential in developing this weaver technique in the region. She has a good vision to preserve this unique cultural heritage while creating jobs for women around it. We want to explore this craft and enable women like Yati and others to develop their talent further,” Metti explained.

Yati hopes that her Songket business will grow, providing more job opportunities to local women as it does so. That way, she can maintain her local culture while also empowering local women.

APR is committed to gender empowerment and enabling local women and girls to build more inclusive communities in Riau. The company is committed to delivering on a vision of inclusive communities and delivery impact on SDG Goal 5 Gender Empowerment and Goal 10 Reduced Inequality.


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