Small Business Owned by Disabled Women Hit by Global Pandemic

Paini, a woman with disability, has been suffering from decrease of sales due to the pandemic. Sadly, 29 other women with disabilities whom she empowers through the Komunitas Usaha Bersama Penyandang Disabilitas Bekasi.

Paini making cheese sticks in Komunitas Usaha Bersama Penyandang Disabilitas Bekasi’s headquarters. (ACTNews / Fhirlian)

ACTNews, BEKASI - The COVID-19 pandemic that has affected the country has had a profound impact on the home-based businesses or Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs). Among the businesses affected by the pandemic is a snack business run by women with disabilities.

Paini (49), a resident of Bojong Menteng, Rawa Lumbu Subdistrict, Bekasi City shared her story with ACT Bekasi who visited her on Monday (6/8). The team also came to hand over capital assistance from the Friends of Indonesian Micro Businesses (Sahabat UMI) program.

Paini is the founder of Komunitas Usaha Bersama Penyandang Disabilitas Bekasi which she established ten years ago. Her house is currently also used as a boarding house dormitory to accommodate 29 people with disabilities. They are then empowered economically, including by being given life skills and business assistance.

Although Paini is mobility impaired, her spirit to spread goodness and run her own business does not dampen despite many people that have underestimated her.

Paini making cheese sticks assisted by her fellow disabled assistants. (ACTNews / Fhirlian)

"From the bitter experience of being underestimated because of my physical limitations, I want to create something to be able to help my brothers and sisters with disabilities. Putting my trust in Allah, initially I made onde-onde ketawa and other snacks, "Paini said.

After years, she is finally able to produce up to 11 kinds of snack, such as onde-onde, cheese sticks, onion sticks, akar kelapa, corn chips, and chili sauce. In its production and sales, Paini is assisted by other people with disabilities whom she supervises.

"We have four stalls that sell fast food like pecel rice etc. at Bekasi City Government office, near Summarecon Bekasi, and at Bekasi Car Free Day (CFD) area every Sunday," she said.

Since the pandemic that hits Indonesia for months ago and the Large-Scale Social Restrictions, Paini can no longer sell her merchandises. Weekly Car Free Day is no longer held, and a number of roads have been closed. Paini has no idea how she can support 29 children with disabilities.

"In the last four months, we have been faced with difficulties. What should I do to feed our families because we are all required to stay home, " Paini said.

Not wanting to give up, Paini and her fellow people with disabilities choose to adjust with the new situation. Finally, she decided to use digital and social media platforms such as Facebook and WhatsApp to sell her snacks.

"What else can I do this during the pandemic? I have to be able to sell my products because I have to support my colleagues here in this house. At first I didn't understand anything about online marketing using WhatsApp and Facebook. During COVID-19, thank God, I initially had no knowledge about online marketing, but now I can market my products using Facebook and WhatsApp group. Alhamdulillah, I feel much facilitated," Paini said.

She is also grateful that, thanks to the pandemic, she can adjust to the new situation by using digital platforms. Now, she can only hope that her business will run more smoothly, especially after receiving capital assistance from Friends of Indonesian Micro Businesses (Sahabat UMI) program because, according to him, the assistance provided by ACT really helped people with disabilities.

Paini revealed that there are currently around 2,000 more people with disabilities in Bekasi City. 80 percent are living below the poverty line. For this reason, the attention and care of all elements of society are needed to support brothers and sisters with disabilities.

"Alhamdulillah, thanks to online marketing, my 29 friends and I at the boarding house can fulfill our basic needs and can keep the business running. I am grateful for the assistance through the Sahabat UMI program. We hope that, in the future, all elements of society can join hands with us with people with disabilities who want to remain independent," Paini concluded. []