Yesterday, I wrote a reply email to an aquaintance, Marica Harrison who was introduced to me via the social media platform facebook. More importantly, it was the Team Mak Winter Conference (www.teammak.com.au) in Melbourne (July 2016), Australia at the Melbourne Exhibition and Convention Centre where a young bunch of us Entrepreneurs gathered to learn from the best to grow our own businesses. What an exciting time! To learn from great and inspiring mentors is super-that is a very important word in business and life in general! I was very new to the business world but keen to learn more. I hungered for knowledge. Taking out books from the library just wasn’t enough for me as I tend to read well over 60 educational and growth books per year. I also wanted to expand my network and to make some long term investments on the side. I can safely say that my father has always been a business man at a local level;so I learnt some things from him but I was desperate for more in a big way.
The last day at the powerful and mentally stimulating conference, I was very fortunate to do some more networking with the Melbourne team during our last lunch. Little did I know about Ira Warner who was going to really impact on my little budding business. Ira is the Managing Director at Alpha + (www.alphaplus.tv) and he wanted me to partner up with Marica Harrison (the founder of Sookah and Sookah Styles-@sookahstyles) in Cairns, Australia. Sookah appears to be exposing a very rich niche market for our Melanesian women in PNG with an array of design and styles-a beautiful form of art and crafts. I wanted to do something similar but with our Vanuatu women. My interest soley lies with the rural women of Vanuatu who have been missing out on earning an income and struggling to make ends meet. I would love to meet this niche market with the arts and crafts of these women and expose their hidden talents on the global stage. Similarly, I would like to extend the business and help the women of Solomon Islands, New Caledonia, Bouganville and West Papua as a long term goal. My previous post of how my little business (see What I learnt about not being a Linguistic Student) was born details how the business came about for a brief history.
I reflected on the email as I wrote to Ms Harrison that there were a lot things that I had learnt from the experience of starting up the business and wanting to recognise our rural women. These are the five important things that stood out for me after the project was completed to enable me to gather some cultural and linguist data;
1. Collaboration and Partnership
In any business or communal living cirumstances, to achieve anything successfully in life, we must work together in partnership and collaborate. The women of Lawa Village when I set the task of designing a “coconut dress”for me to present at the Arts and Crafts competition, the called on the other tribal women to come together and talk about the design, the pattern and the weaving of the materials. They successfully executed their critical thinking in a team environment to produce a safe and wearable “WOW”product for me to wear and to market on the competition day.
The women when faced with the prospect of having to design a “coconut dress” thought through all the practical steps of making the dress. It started from how to get the coconut leaves to fitting me into the costume. They leveraged on the resources that were available to them in the village; the men climbed and cut the coconut palms (a certain type of them) and then sheared them, some women steamed the leaves to make them softer to a more weavable form while the others worked on three separate forms of the dress to stitch them all together; the neckline, the sleeve, the bodice, the hem, the measurements with no measuring tapes etc. The others worked on weaving the flower bouquets made out of the coconut leaves as part of the presentation of gifts. Yes the power of delegation and leveraging in a team is so important when we all realise the importance of something or a product and working together to successfully achieve it.
3. Personal powerful and unique stories from the heart
I heard and listened to the stories of these women who had lived through the old days when we were not exposed to cell phone technology. I heard tribal stories and songs that came from the heart of our men and women. They sang to the children just like we used to do growing up in the village around the glowing fires. They talked about the stories of how some of the islands were formed not far from the village, how things were done and practiced, the games we played, the tribal wars and more importantly when the Blackbirding came and blood was shed on the beach. It was such incredible journey to be part of.
4. Connection to our Cultural Identity-Our Ninde Language
I realised at an alarming rate that our Ninde language was rapidly disappearing with the younger generations not speaking it. I believe it was because our older generations did not make an effort and did not see the language as being important so they spoke our pidgin-Bislama instead. The Arts and Crafts competition saw the presentation of weavings and artefacts being presented in the local dialect with the retelling of custom stories from the dialect names of the different patterns and designs. It brought a lot of surprises from a lot of us but more importantly, it brought beautiful nostalgic memories.
5. Deeper sense of Satisfaction and Achievement
The Arts and Crafts competition brought and marked a historic event in our village where we were all able to stop and celebrate what we have with our remarkable skills and talents. The biggest sense of achievement and satisfaction came from the women who wove the “coconut dress”-their faces lit up when I thanked them for their countless hours and efforts in stringing what was a very tough challenge together for the event. This was my biggest highlight ever-the womens smiles! That was exhilarating! Later, I was thanked by the Womens Cultural Coordinator who instilled to me that I had reignited their passions again-they will now be embarking on a new journey of teaching our younger women in the village how to weave and retell the tribal stories of our women dances called Likan.
Overall, it was an amazing personal journey that I will always cherish as I have learnt so much collecting linguistic data. I am grateful to Dr Julie Barbour from the Waikato University, New Zealand who worked closely with me to help me gather data. Out from that opportunity came more opportunities to help raise the profile of our rural women in business and to promote their talents and skills on an international level.