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Norliza's story: an expanding handicraft business

Woman weaving a rattan basketMaking things runs in Norliza’s family. The shaded veranda where she sits, deftly weaving a rattan basket, is constructed from debris left after her parents’ house was wrecked by the tsunami. Instead of moving into a new home provided by an aid agency, Norliza’s family decided to rebuild their wooden house away from the beach, in a spot higher up the hill in Deudap village on Pulo Nasi island.

Norliza, aged 29, also lost her sewing machine in the disaster. That meant she could no longer work as a tailor. But she decided to utilise a skill she had learned at school to start earning a living again. A year after the tsunami, she began making handicrafts from rattan gathered nearby, and now she is receiving more orders than she can handle.

She produces an impressive range of goods – from baskets for catching fish, displaying fruit and storing laundry, to tea sets and trays. The trays are decorated with glittering flowers and stars on coloured backgrounds. Norliza used the cash grant she received from the British Red Cross to buy materials for the designs. “Before I already had my own business of rattan weaving, but my capital was only small,” she says. “With the assistance from the Red Cross, I can produce more than before.”

Sharing skills

It takes Norliza a day to make one tray at a cost of 20,000 rupiah (£1.10), which she sells for 50,000 rupiah (£2.80). Orders took off after she happened to run into a store owner who asked her to provide some samples. Now she supplies her goods to two shops in the provincial capital Banda Aceh, a 45-minute boat ride away.

Norliza has roped in her sister and niece to help cope with the upsurge in business. “We’re a bit overwhelmed. I’d like to expand, but there’s not much extra space,” she says, surveying the veranda piled high with drying rattan and finished goods.

Despite the limited room in her workshop, Norliza is keen to teach local women who want to learn how to make rattan handicrafts, and has already given training sessions in other villages. Hopefully her efforts to share her skill will enable her to recruit a willing apprentice or two and keep up with growing demand.  

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