The Jakarta Post
When Susi, 38, found out about a training program on how to make Barbie dresses directed at female inmates at the Pondok Bambu state penitentiary for women, it did not take long for her to sign up.
'My 12-year-old daughter who now lives in Subang [West Java] loves Barbie dolls. Sure she will love it if I can make Barbie dresses,' Susi told The Jakarta Post at the penitentiary after the launch of the Batik Girl training program on Tuesday.
Susi, who has served her sentence for two years and two months, said she would make the most out of her last two months inside the penitentiary.
'I will work diligently during my last months here. I hope I can start my own business making Barbie dresses once I am free. I can't wait to go home,' she said.
Another inmate, Ani, 37, shared the sentiment.
'Learning something new and being able to make something while serving my sentence is exciting. Otherwise one day feels like forever,' she said.
Both Susi and Ani were among the 40 female inmates who joined the Batik Girl training program initiated by the Cinderella from Indonesia Foundation, which focuses on empowering female and juvenile inmates, single parents and people with HIV/AIDS.
The program, which will be held for three days, from Wednesday to Friday, aims to train the inmates to make dresses from batik cloths designed for Barbie dolls. The foundation is also providing entrepreneurship classes during the three days of training.
Program initiator and socio-enterpreneur Lusi Efriani said she initiated the program after she regularly delivered motivational speeches for female inmates in Batam, where she lives.
'At the time, I usually delivered motivational speeches and provided aid for them. A lot of them were still young and I thought that activity alone was not productive for them. So I came up with the idea to train them to create something,' Lusi said.
Inspired by her experience in the US, when she was a fellow in the International Visitor Leadership Program in 2011, during which her foreign fellows gave her the nickname 'a doll from Indonesia', she decided she would produce batik dresses for Barbie dolls.
'I have introduced various series, including the hijab series and now the angklung [traditional bamboo music instrument] series. I have exported the products to various countries, including Singapore, Malaysia, Australia and Hong Kong. I am currently targeting the US market because I have a network there,' she said, pointing out that the profit would be given to people with HIV/AIDS.
The trainees will also reap financial benefits from the program as Lusi promised Rp 10,000 (81 US cents) per dress for the inmates.
'We will provide all the materials and equipment. All they need to do is learn how to make it and then make it,' she said, adding that she wanted to produce 1,500 dresses from 100 trainees in Batam and Jakarta this year.
'Next year, I will focus on promoting the products abroad,' she said.
Pondok Bambu penitentiary chief Sri Susilarti lauded the program, saying that the program was in line with the penitentiary's goals to empower inmates.
She cited that various training programs had also been provided for the inmates. 'They have created various products, including handmade handbags and female Muslim prayer cloaks. The products turned out good and we have exported them to Singapore.
'I hope the training program will not only stop here. After the program completes or the inmates are free, I hope they can use their new skills to start businesses and start a new life,' she said.
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