Annually, on the 8th of March, women around the world are celebrated for their perseverance in breaking barriers, for rising against the status quo and for their infinite love and care to the less fortunate. This International Women’s Day, we have highlighted nine women in the impact industry empowering other women; through providing means of income or through their fight for equal rights.
Ann Wong returned home from her studies and a career in the United States to be with her mother in Kuching, Sarawak. Having given birth to twins, she had a foretaste of how a full-time homemaker would be, and she desired more . Driven to contribute with her knowledge and experience working in arts and design, Ann met Shida Mojet, founder of Miri Women Weaving Association (MWWA).
Ann resonated with the great work Shida is doing in helping the Penan women (an indigenous tribe in Sarawak) to generate income and sustain livelihood by producing and selling woven bags and baskets. Ann found the perfect place to contribute her existing knowledge, and she became the chairperson and spokesperson for the Penan Women Project.
Beyond weaving, the Penan Women Project has given the Penan dignity and self-worth. They are slowly becoming independent while going back to their roots and reviving the craft of their ancestors. In 2019, the enterprise has benefitted 60 weavers from Long Nen, Long Kevok and Long Latek in Miri.
When you buy a Penan handwoven bag, know that your support helps empower the Penan women. The Penan woman relies entirely on her husband but if her husband doesn’t have a job, they will have no income. – Ann Wong, Chairperson of Penan Women Project
At the same time, the Penan Women Project extended its care to the Penan community as a whole by providing medical and maternity care. Their initiatives are formidable as many in the Penan community have inadequate access to basic needs such as clean water and healthcare.
Even though the start of the journey has been arduous when it comes to the creative direction of the bags, three years later, Ann’s patience has been awarded by the refined quality of their products over the years.
If I compare the quality of our products from the early years, I can see that our work back then was unrefined. What I am most proud of is not just that PWP enabled weavers to earn an income but also that there is a refined quality to their handicraft, bringing it to a level of excellent craftsmanship and design. – Ann Wong, Chairperson of Penan Women Project
Explore our sources:
- N.Malyanah. (2018). Helping Penan Women Lead Better Lives. Emag. Link
- K.Goon. (2020). S01E08: Ann Wong, Co-founder of Penan Women Project. Woman. Link
- S.Yeap. (2019). Penan Women Project weaves optimism into the lives of Sarawak’s Penan community. Options The Edge. Link
- K.Goon. (2019). Designing For Good. Maya Kirana. Link
- TVS. (2021). Weaving Their Way Towards Empowerment through Penan Women Project.Link