Letters From Founders
I am a mother, a wife and a dreamer.
I am a mother of two children. My oldest child is Sena, he is a Software Engineer. He is calm and easy like Sunday morning. The second one is my daughter Rani, who has just graduated as a Drama artist. She is active and creative like Monday morning. I feel, that my children are the greatest gifts I have received from the universe.
I am a wife. My husband, Danny was born in Toraja, a mountainous area in Sulawesi island, Indonesia. People from around the world come to Toraja to enjoy its pristine scenery dotted by the boat shaped traditional houses and to be the guests in the festive funeral ceremonies. From the first time I arrived in Toraja a long time ago, I feel that I have come home.
I have worked as a banker, a business-woman and an activist for women’s rights. My last full-time job was as the Secretary General of the Indonesia National Commission on Anti Violence Against Women in Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia.
At the end of 2007, I asked my husband that I would like to go home to Toraja. I wanted to write my experience in working with women. I asked Danny to build my dream house above the clouds in Toraja, complete with a library and a writing desk. He did.
But then, I met the weavers in my mother-in-law’s village. They use back-strap loom to weave different colors of textile. It takes them several weeks to finish a piece of textile, because they can only weave after cooking for the family, feeding the pigs, planting the rice, etc. There were not many buyers. The tourists who used to buy the textile for souvenir trickled down after the Financial Crisis in 1998. Moreover, the Torajanese prefer to wear factory made cloth as opposed to the hand-woven textile.
In 2008, I walked up and down the valley to visit and to talk to the weavers. I bought their textile and took it to Jakarta. I asked my friends, who have been working in batik and handcrafted items for ideas on what to do.
I am a dreamer. In 2009 I started Toraja Melo, which means Beautiful Toraja. My goal is to help preserve and rejuvenate the weaving of Indonesia, starting with Toraja. My dream is for a better life for the artisans.
In 2010 when the business grew, my sister Nina Jusuf, who is a woman activist and has a Fashion Design degree from Academy of Art University in San Francisco joined me. We then formalized the business into two prongs: Foundation Toraja Melo to focus on the community development programs in the villages and Social Enterprise Toraja Melo to focus on design, production and marketing. In our joined dream for a better life of women, Nina takes care of design, production and operations; while I am in charge of the Finance, Public Relations and Marketing.
Since 2013 we have started to work beyond Toraja to Mamasa in West Sulawesi and to Adonara and Lembata Islands in East Flores. We presently collaborate with around 500 weavers. The dream is to work with weavers across Indonesia, so we can weave the stories of Indonesia.
The road is still long and winding…
Thank you to all of you who visit and join Toraja Melo.
Together we can turn our dream into reality!
TORAJAMELO focuses on solving the feminization of poverty and the rejuvenation of the “dying” hand-weaving heritage in Indonesia. Indonesia with a population of 250 million has 50% living on less than $2/day and 70% of the poor are women. A key source of income for many homebound indigenous poor women in rural area of Indonesia is back-strap weaving. However, prices and demand is still low, made worse by factories copying their indigenous designs and selling them cheap. So many resorts to working as migrant workers, and many come back abused with unwanted pregnancies. TORAJAMELO aims to stop this cycle of poverty and violence using weaving as the entry point.
In 2008, we started our work and in October 2010, we established a Foundation (Yayasan Toraja Melo) to conduct the community organizing programs and a limited liability (PT Toraja Melo) to do the business aspects of the social endeavor.
Dinny Jusuf is married to a Torajanese man and initiated the company and foundation out of her concern about the dying weaving culture. Dinny has worked as a banker in Citibank N.A Jakarta, owner of a training consultancy business and Secretary General of the Indonesian National Commission on Anti Violence Against Women. In 1998 Dinny co-founded Suara Ibu Peduli (The Voice of Concerned Mothers), an association of poor urban women, which runs education and micro-finance programs.
Nina Jusuf has a Fashion Design degree from the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. Nina has been involved in Domestic Violence issues since 1992 and was the Executive Director of San Francisco Women Against Rape. Nina co-founded the National Organization of Asian Pacific Islanders Ending Sexual Violence USA. As a Capacitar International trainer, Nina facilitates sustaining activism workshops for Women Human Rights Defenders and NGO staff in the US, Indonesia and other countries.
In their joined quest for a better life for women, Dinny as CEO is in charge of Finance, Fund Raising and Marketing, while Nina as COO takes care of Design, Production and Operations.
THE BUSINESS MODEL
The business model is based on the principle of Community, Quality and Compassion.
TORAJAMELO works with the community of weavers and creates a community of supporters and customers in Jakarta and beyond. TORAJAMELO designs and creates high-quality products by being professional, which means being strict in our quality control, holding high standard in our procedure and having high respect in our collaborative work.The underlying value is compassion with each other, among the weavers-staff-collaborative workshops-customers.
TORAJAMELO presently works in four weaving areas, i.e. Toraja, South Sulawesi; Mamasa, West Sulawesi and Adonara and Lembata islands in East Flores. Our business is based in Jakarta, but we have been selling Bali and Japan.