Norarita Bt Jamaludin
In 2002, Norarita's entire life was consumed with caring for her children. One is paralyzed and he has speech difficulties, while the other suffers from cerebral palsy. Norarita was depressed and isolated, but in Ipoh, a small town with a declining economy and a three- hours drive from the capital, Kuala Lumpur, there are not many options for her to reach out for help. She described her situation then as "I was too scared to talk. I didn't meet anybody. I didn't trust myself."
Her struggle to overcome her limiting situation evolved into a strong motivation to improve herself when she had to earn income to support her sons' medical expenses Her prayers were answered when she met the then Salaam Wanita coordinator in Ipoh, Sue. "Salaam Wanita is a boon to people like me who feel that they have reached a dead end."
Five years later, Norarita stepped up the empowerment ladder and became the leader among the weavers in Ipoh, the position Sue had when Noraita first joined Salaam Wanita. Through computer training courses, basket-weaving courses and financial management seminars she overcame her lack of self- confidence. She never thought she could do what Sue, a lawyer's wife with a bachelor's degree, could do, until she became a leader herself.
Besides weaving baskets for her customers, she now coordinates her group of weavers which comprises a truly multi-ethnic group of ladies -- Chinese, Malays and Indians. She even takes on the job of marketing the baskets to Ipoh customers. Her business savvyness is evident when she tries to sell baskets for her group to clubs and associations in the area. This is her strategy -- Spend a little money to promote the baskets, tell people they are environmentally friendly and good for Malaysia. Her mobile phone loaded with telephone numbers of all her contacts is her most important asset in this endeavor as it allows her to network and market without leaving the home.
She takes the full advantage of a simple and low cost ICT solutions such as mobile phone and SMS to coordinate her group of basket weavers on orders and delivery schedules, as well as marketing to customers. SW's ICT-focused activities have opened a whole new world for her to tap into. She can now garner resources and transform things around her into useful resources Now she earns extra income and stands alone as an entrepreneur.
Her realization of the value of a simple hand phone has led her to start learning Internet and email more seriously. She now believes that ICTs can really change her life.
She has moved out from Ipoh to a nearby town, Taiping, but she still travels to Ipoh regularly to meet her weavers and customers. She has to pay extra for gasoline and toll, but she can afford this now or to be precise, she is willing to spend some money to earn more money as she is more optimistic about her future -- that she can make ends meet with her newly acquired skills. In addition, she feels that now it is her turn to start helping those who are struggling, the women who are like her five years ago, standing at the dead end of lifeï¿½s journey, hoping to change for the better.
"I feel so much happier now as a mother. I can earn a living even though I am home with my two children!" Norarita smiles, her eyes sparkle with hopes.