By Advina Julkifle and Susan Azam-Ali
A group of women entrepreneurs from the Program Perumahan Rakyat (PPR) Taman Medan Cahaya, Petaling Jaya, organised a community event aimed at fostering engagement within the community and providing an opportunity for community members to participate and gain exposure.
The 25 women were selected by the NGO Women Of Will (WOW) to take part in this development programme, which aims to empower women with skills to improve their livelihoods and to excel as entrepreneurs.
All are small-scale entrepreneurs in the food and beverage sector. The training ran in conjunction with a development project (ASSESSCROP) led by researchers at the University of Nottingham Malaysia (UNM). The aim of this project is to encourage the diversification of diets and the improvement of health and livelihoods through the increased use of underutilised fruits and vegetables.
The community event was an opportunity for a festive gathering of families, friends, and community members, all coming together to celebrate the journey of these enterprising women.
The entrepreneurs took centre stage as they shared insights and experiences from the intensive training and skill development programme. This interaction not only highlighted their growth in confidence but also deepened their connections with other community members who played a vital role in supporting these businesses.
The event also provided a platform for the women to showcase the range of products they sell, including those they developed from underutilised crops.
Moreover, the event was filled with fun games and activities like Zumba, an eating competition, and a balloon-throwing competition, which all created an engaging and entertaining atmosphere.
WOW selected 25 women to take part in their training and development programme. The only requirement to join the programme is that the women were already active in the informal food and beverage sector.
These women completed a comprehensive programme of training and upskilling, encompassing various modules tailored to meet their entrepreneurial needs. The modules covered entrepreneurial skills, financial literacy, personal care, baking and nutrition.
Throughout the programme, participants received extensive coaching and monitoring to ensure that they were well-prepared for the challenges and opportunities of entrepreneurship. This support was crucial in helping these women develop the confidence and expertise they needed to launch and grow successful businesses.
A unique aspect of the programme was the focus on the use of underutilised traditional crops to diversify and improve the nutritional value of the products women were making. The training provided by UNM included awareness raising about the potential of these crops to be incorporated into a range of products that are popular amongst Malaysian consumers.
The women were given training, recipes, and raw materials to use to develop new products from these crops and were encouraged to explore innovative ways to utilise the crops as food. This approach aimed to empower these women to create unique and marketable products that could potentially lead to new business ventures.
Whilst the formal training has been completed, learning never ends. The women are only just beginning their journeys as entrepreneurs. With the correct support and motivation, they have the potential, the creativity, the desire to succeed, and the opportunity to improve the livelihoods of themselves and their families and community.
This programme is made possible by the collaborative effort of the University of Nottingham Malaysia (UNM) and Women Of Will (WOW), a non-governmental organisation. Thanks to the generous support of Yayasan Sime Darby (YSD), the programme has been able to continue providing the women entrepreneurs with opportunities to enhance their skills and contribute to the economic development of their communities.