Entrepreneur empowered after fighting early marriage

Having refused to be married at an early age, this female entrepreneur in East Nusa Tenggara has become more independent after participating in an entrepreneurship and financial management training provided by ILO as part of a UN joint programme.

Delila Utan repeatedly left her hometown in Camplong II village, Kupang, East Nusa Tenggara and became a migrant worker in Malaysia to avoid marriage at a young age. She had never thought that her courage would eventually lead her to become an independent and empowered entrepreneur.

Delila, who was born in 1986, was only 15 years old when she found that her parents were arranging her marriage. At that time, Delila, who was preparing to continue her education to junior high school, was shocked, angry, and afraid.

“I wanted to resist but I did not have the gut to disobey my parents. As I was confused, a friend came and offered a way out, by becoming a migrant worker in Malaysia”

said Delila

Driven by her determination to avoid the early marriage, Delila, who is the seventh of eight children in her family, immediately signed in for the job and left for Malaysia after attending a series of trainings in Jakarta. After three years of working, she felt she has had enough savings to go home and build her own house in her hometown.

Unfortunately upon arriving home, Delila heard the news about her marriage arrangement again and decided to return to work with her previous employer in Malaysia. Every month, she transferred a certain amount of money to complete the construction of a house until it was completed in 2009.

Delila returned to East Nusa Tenggara but again faced the possibility of an arranged marriage. She took decisive steps by returning to Malaysia and opening a bank account to save enough fund to open a business when she returned home. She also stopped sending money to be managed by her family. Delila started her business by buying a cow to be raised and sold. She assigned her relative in East Nusa Tengagra to take care of the cattle and paid Rp500,000 a month. After four years, Delila returned to Camplong II Village and expanded her business by buying a plot of cashew plantation belonging to her neighbour.

In the midst of developing her business, Delila heard that the man she was betrothed to still wanted to marry her. Once again, Delila went to Malaysia and considered to stay permanently in the neighbouring country but cancelled the plan as she could not leave her family in East Nusa Tenggara. After returning from Malaysia in 2016, Delila purchased a car to support the operations of her businesses. In addition to manage the cashew plantation, Delila has also begun selling staple goods and woven fabrics. Unfortunately, her lack of knowledge of bookkeeping at one point put her businesses at the brink of bankruptcy.

“I managed my finances thinking that I just need to keep the money circulating. When someone stole my income and my car was damaged in an accident, I had to withdraw money from my personal savings account because I did not have a financial record for my business,” said Delila.

Determined to improve her business, Delila participated in the Entrepreneurship and Access to Financial Institutions Training that was held by Perkumpulan Pondok Pergerakan in June 2021. This training is part of the Employment and Livelihood project, a joint programme between ILO and other United Nations (UN) agencies in Indonesia. It was funded by the UN COVID-19 Response and Recovery Multi-Partner Trust Fund (UN MPTF).

“This entrepreneurship and financial inclusion training is held to assist small businesses to review their financial standing and bookkeeping as a foundation to develop their ventures when the pandemic ends,” said Navitri Putri Guillaume, ILO's National Project Officer in Jakarta.

In the five-days training, held at the Camplong II village office hall, Delila and 15 other participants were being introduced to the basic principles of financial management for entrepreneurs, that include selling price and calculating costs of production, depreciation, and the importance of bookkeeping.

According to Delila, the knowledge she gained in this training are all in line with her aspiration to develop her business. She admitted that she often faced difficulties in finding the root cause of and solutions for financial issues, as she did not have adequate knowledge about the cashflow in her businesses.

“Prior to this, I had difficulty managing my business because I relied on my instinct and did not keep any financial records”

said Delila

Following the training, Delila began to improve her business by recording all daily income and expenses as well as maintaining a ledger for her cashew plantation to calculate her monthly net income. Delila said her experience and success in running her businesses has contributed to a stronger confidence. She said she is now able to live in peace and make her own decision regarding her life.