An entrepreneurial handicraft business gives female ex-convicts – and scraps of fabric – a second chance at life. By Najwa Abdullah.
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Entering society again after a long sentence at a correctional institution is difficult enough for ex-convicts, let alone female ones. Hopes and dreams for a better life are sometimes overshadowed by negative stereotypes and labels. They may find it harder to get a job due to their past, and even more so when they have no special skills.
This worried a young entrepreneur, Titin Agustina, based in Bandung, Indonesia. Titin, who usually goes by Tina, is the founder and director of Kraviti, a social enterprise that produces patchwork handicrafts. She employs a number of female inmates and promotes their works of art to the public.
With a degree in industrial technology and a masters in management from the Telkom Management Institute, Tina worked in a manufacturing company and later, as a management consultant. In 2009, she changed direction to learn more about handicrafts.
“My interest in handicraft started out simply. I found lots of rags and leftovers of batik fabric, and I was thinking about how to reconceptualise this traditional Indonesian fabric in a more creative form,” she explains.
Kraviti was established in the same year in a small studio in Bandung, under the label perca perca (“bits and pieces”). She was inspired from a blanket from Yogyakarta, which was put together entirely from scrap pieces of batik, making it popular again. To her, the design showed just how much leftover fabric there was in the batik industry. Tina then committed herself to transform these scraps (which would have otherwise gone to waste) into creative and useful products – hence, her company Kraviti.
Kraviti has always had a warm welcome from the public for its environmentally friendly concept as well as its one of a kind designs.
In 2012, Tina made a breakthrough by involving inmates from Bandung Women’s Correctional Facility. This idea came from her concerns about the high crime rate in the city. She had heard that many inmates completed their prison sentences just to find themselves behind bars again. Their lack of skills prevented them from earning an honest livelihood.
Tina was raised in a family that encouraged social awareness at an early age. Thus, she was moved and challenged to find a sustainable solution for this issue. She believes that giving these women skills that allow them to be independent and a productive part of the society is important for their survival.
Through Kraviti’s knitting and sewing training, Tina hopes to inspire and encourage female inmates to continue striving once they are back in mainstream society.
“It doesn’t stop at providing the needed training. Kraviti is also committed to continually marketing their work,” she says.
For its efforts to preserve Indonesian heritage by innovating with batik, empowering women, and promoting environmental preservation, Kraviti was given the Mandiri Bersama Mandiri Challenge Award in 2012, in the creative industry category.
Tina is optimistic about developing as a social entrepreneur. She also hopes Kraviti can expand to the international market.
“I want Kraviti to be a ‘brand ambassador’ for both scrap and traditional Indonesian fabrics… not only for home decor, but also in fashion and accessories. In the future, I also want the whole world to recognise Kraviti.” she says.