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By: Andi Nur Faizah

The faces of Kobher Women’s members are visibly enthusiastic. Several of the members are active at home with domestic tasks and have very little time for socialisation. The presence of productive activities with the women of Kobher fosters new hope and passion. Kobher Women is present amidst the absence of productive activities for women in Matanair village, Rubaru District, Sumenep, Madura. The women also generally do not join other groups or organisations which can serve as a meeting point. 

‘Kobher’ in Kobher Women is from the Madurese language, and means having sufficient time and passion. ‘Kobher’ also stands for a group of intelligent women, since the hope is that women may have better opportunities and commitments for having joined in on the activities in the group. The name ‘kobher’ was also inspired by the words of man jadda wajada or ‘whoever makes every effort will then be the one who succeeds’. This becomes the spirit of Kobher Women in running their activities in the midst of varied limitations.

Kobher Women was initiated in 2017, and at first had about 40-50 members. However, there were members who were not allowed by their husbands and some who passed away, so the number of members gradually diminished. At present, the members of Kobher Women number at 35 people, with a range of ages from 20 to 45 years. There are members who work as farmers, kindergarten teachers, rice vendors, tempeh chip vendors, tofu vendors, as well as housewives.

Every Sunday at 5:30pm, Kobher Women carry out their routine activities. The agenda is to read Shalawat Nariya (chanting Islamic litanies). This is then followed by thematic discussion. Discussion topics are tailored to the needs of members, for example the management of family money, building a peaceful and happy family, the prevention of child marriage, and so forth. As for the other activities, there is a weekly arisan (a social gathering that usually involves collecting money used to help group members), analysing Swara Rahima (a magazine published by Rahima) articles, and other creative activities, such as chanting Islamic litanies. In 2018, Kobher Women also established a Women’s School with the endorsement of the Asian Muslim Action Network (AMAN) Indonesia. Several of these activities are training for the Women’s School facilitators, along with development of the modules that will guide the school’s activities.

Kobher Women’s activity had to be stopped during the Covid-19 pandemic. However, this situation did not break the spirit of these women. They even created an initiative involving the preparation of herbal remedies as an effort to strengthen the economy of the group during pandemic times.

Preparing Herbal Remedies to be Empowered

The initiative to prepare herbal remedies arose from a light conversation between Raudlatun, the chairwoman of Kobher Women and one of the members. “At that time, my husband and I were washing clothes near our home. I met up with one of the members of Kobher Women. We were chatting while washing. Suddenly the woman said, I have an idea, what if we made plant based herbal remedies, as something beneficial.” At that moment, Raudlatun agreed with the idea to prepare the herbal remedies, which was later supported by Rahima with We Lead (Consortium which focuses on the fulfilment of women’s rights and promises tolerance).

August 2020 was a month abound with significance. Raudlatun, together with the members of Kobher Women, bought the necessary tools and ingredients in order to produce herbal remedies.  They then started to practise making the turmeric and tamarind herbal drink and herbal medicine for various illnesses, however their first test still failed. The following week, the women of Kobher Women tried the practice again, with the assistance of a local mentor along with Cattleya from the Empu Community. Thanks to this assistance, Kobher Women acquired the relevant information for making herbal medicines, kitchen safety, and packaging. At first they produced around 10 bottles of the herbal remedy, which they promoted through word of mouth, WhatsApp groups, and Facebook. After this, Kobher Women were able to produce hundreds of the remedies ready to be steeped, thanks to regular customers and resellers. In three months, Kobher Women had already made profits of around Rp 1,000,000 from sales of the herbal remedies. These funds were then put towards their weekly savings. 

The activity of producing the herbal remedies has brought new zest for life. Kobher Women’s members even got the nickname ‘Swara Rahima herbal remedy women’. “A lot of the benefits from gathering in this group, are not only for yourself, but for your family too. Among the agendas we have had, one of them was to make the herbal remedies. By joining this group, we can socialise with other women and mothers,” said Fitri, the treasurer of Kobher Women. In having these activities, there is socialisation and fellow members can openly share their personal experiences and build a safe space.  

Building a Safe Space amidst Challenges

There is a certain happiness among the women who are a part of the group Kobher Women. There were women who previously did not know how to give expression to their opinions, but now can voice their thoughts. There were also those who previously did not know to tell their stories, who are now pouring out their hearts. In this meeting point caring for others is built. When members are ill, give birth, or struck by disaster, they make a collective contribution. Between jokes, laughter and liveliness, Kobher Women’s members are slowly building a safe space for fellow women.

In this process, Kobher Women join in to deal with challenges. Obstacles that the group faces include families that do not provide support (Some members of their families believe that women who come to the gatherings only to gossip) and religious leaders who see women as second-class citizens. However, this does not dim the vigour of these women. Raudlatun, the leader of the Kobher Women, hopes that women may have knowledge, financial independence, and develop their interests in order to live a better life. 

 

Translated by Saxon Roveta (student of languages and international relations at the Australian National University with a passion for studying Indonesian language and culture)

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