Handicraft body urged to play more effective role in helping rural artisans, craftswomen

Senator Susan Chemerai Anding

KUCHING, Sept 8: Malaysian Handicraft Development Corporation needs to play a bigger and more effective role in helping rural artisans and craftswomen by further elevating local art crafts, especially from Sarawak, to the prestigious global platform.

Senator Susan Chemerai Anding emphasised that with over 27 ethnic groups in Sarawak, the handicrafts produced were diverse, unique and artistic.

“Women in longhouses in rural and interior Sarawak produce all kinds of handicrafts which are made from cloth, rattan, beads, wood, metal and so on, wovened into mats, baskets, bags, traditional and modern fashion accessories, clothing, fabric, carvings and many more.

“The handicrafts produced are partly to supplement the family’s income and although it is not much, it is an important source of income,” she highlighted in her debate on the Royal Address in Parliament today.

Susan shared that their customers were mainly close family members and friends while the technology literate ones have the opportunity to market their products on social media platforms including WhatsApp.

“Marketing of their products is quite limited when the market out there is much larger.

“As such, will the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture set up a central platform to collect and market the handicraft products to be sold in local and international markets?

“Moreover, to meet the trends and needs of the global market, local crafts produced need to be improved in the aspect of quality and design,” she pointed out.

Susan thus called on Malaysian Handicraft to be more active with rural programmes and to collaborate with the Women’s Bureaus in longhouses in Sarawak to teach them commercialisation strategies and other relevant skills.

She also wanted to know if there was any strategy or plan to bring Malaysian produced handicrafts especially from Sarawak to the global market.

“What about plans to train and empower women in the preservation of local arts and how effective are the programmes implemented in training them to produce better quality products?

“Are there any strategies to help women in rural and interior Sarawak with accessibility to the Internet or lack in digital literacy to market their products?,” she asked,

Susan emphasised that ongoing training and exposure were essential to ensure local handicrafts can remain competitive with other handicraft products.

She suggested that the government provide grants to help handicraft entrepreneurs start online business, promote local products more aggressively, create an e-commerce platform and establish a coordinating system to manage artisans and help them reach international markets.

“Malaysian Handicraft can also give training on starting business online to reach overseas markets. They need to play a bigger role to help handicrafts industry players improve their capabilities and skills so that they will not be left behind in the aspect of crafting, material resources, latest design trends and market information.

“Assistance from Malaysian Handicraft is needed considering this is a creative and dynamic industry which is constantly changing and (the people in it) need to be highly skilled and up to date,” she added. — DayakDaily