Sharon Mather – WOMAN of ACTION™

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A Celebration of Women

is elated to Celebrate the Life of this woman leader, NEW ZEALANDER – BORN BRED IN SOUTH AFRICA

 

WOMAN of ACTION™

 
 
Sharon Mather cycling ...
 

Sharon Mather

Pacific Co-Founder & VOICES OF WOMEN WORLDWIDE’s Representative in Australia & New Zealand

 
 
 
 
Sharon Mather rocks​Five years ago, she decided to “change her whole life” – closed down her business, put all her precious cargo into storage, and walk away from her safe space – her home and family – into a life of freedom as a simple traveler working her way … to discover the world ..

So, off she went … with Loma – her Maori tribe mate … from New Zealand to Australia … researching, photographing and writing on the Maoris first and then the Aborigines people in Australia. Sharon poses by the rock forecasting Australian sense of humor

It began with a restless desire to travel “overseas,” after three years of photographing Australia’s beaches and having traveled home to South Africa earlier. There was this idea of creating “cultural humanitarian projects between Australia and New Zealand with a focus on East Java.” The aim was to research and develop “the reduction of visual poverty amongst the majority of women” which needed immediate attention, after almost a year of Internet “chats” with Lecturer Sofia Giranda at Jember University who is the VOICES OF WOMEN WORLDWIDE’s Country Representative in Indonesia.

Almost immediately, we began to discuss “how do we bring gender equality and female empowerment into our communities during this travel itinerary ? Within the next 10-days of intense socializing, I witnessed first-hand how Muslim women in Indonesia, come together bonding as one strong support team, socially and economically self-reliant on each other, in an effort to safeguard their daily survival, while protecting each other and their families.

Three years ago, Sharon signed up and became a member of VOICES OF WOMEN WORLDWIDE INC. & VOWW-TV with the logo of “inviting strong voices for the voiceless.” VOICES OF WOMEN WORLDWIDE (VOWW) is free and by invitation only, giving members a safe place to freely express themselves and inspire and innovate each other … as we grow from strength to strength, offering freedom of expression to all those who have felt “voiceless” in the past and stand proud before VOWW-TV – inspired and motivated to express themselves and speak out, innovated by their own voices.

She dared the website owner in a chat: “I hope this website is not going to be like the thousands of American women’s online sites, focusing on the superficial life-styles of the female gender – forever sprinkling news about Hollywood celebrities living ridiculous drugged lives of useless luxury, perpetual youth-yearning glamour, chemical cosmetics on skin, artificial Babie Doll sales and marketing of useless items, and American propaganda of over-exaggerated life-styles with not a grain of truth!!?”

Once she read the reply from VOWW challenging her : “Find out for yourself … We are strong voices for the voiceless …,” Sharon accepted and took on the pure volunteer’s job of being the Country Representative in Australia, New Zealand, and the South-east Asian Pacific region, where she explores all the different possibilities of serving the poorest of poor women, young girls and children giving them “voices” to tell their stories and find solutions to problems.

My First Indonesian Trip – Via Australia

Sharon Indonsia Weaver 5 - CopyWe spent three day interacting with grassroots women, young girls and children while visiting the temples, market places and spectacular sight seeing. I was bewitched by the intricate hand-made cottage industry – those home-made crafts, so beautifully designed in native colors, and then became aware of the difficulty these women faced in promoting their artistic handicrafts to sell in the global market place.

“Unfortunately, the trip was short, due to a blotting stomach infection, but somehow I could not forget the depth of severe hardship and the poor living conditions of those Indonesian rural women’s faces . I felt convinced that the quality of their handicrafts are world class and deserve recognition. So, now I am determine to see how I can make a difference.

Sharon Indoesnia Weaver8 -Another shy, smiling weaver on a larger traditional wooden machine.

“During the trip, I learned a great deal meeting women and young girls face-to-face. There are many gaps or should I say, obstacles in Indonesia’s poor island villages, first one being to find and reach out to the right markets. I kept thinking, there must be some new opportunities for promoting these women’s incredible handcraft goods and somehow help them to uplift their lives. They spend hours producing working on detailed hand-made designs, with no easy avenues for sales. Except for those “middle men” who paid little, sold the products at high prices in large cities, drank the money in a brothel and returned to buy more at the lowest prices.

“Therefore, I honestly think ‘finding the right markets will require a bit of research work‘ which will bring a little more money to uplift the abject poverty of life among these hardworking women and young girls.

“Then I discovered this brainwave ! Here we are living in the golden age of the Worldwide Web on the Internet which has opened communications and trading options via the creation of websites, photos and video clips. At that moment, I honestly felt I had found the solution: Why not link and use “new media technology and utilize it to the max … . With the help of some college students, while these women kept designing and weaving, VOWW would create a global website … displaying all these rural village women and young girls “works of art” and help raise their standard of living … by forming a “cooperative” and inviting the disadvantaged villages to promote and sell their handicrafts online.

Sharon feels VOWW is more of a global social multimedia “community” which is fast becoming an action-oriented (after some research) network “community” spreading across some 90+ countries … where most members are seriously discussing how to improve the status of living among “voiceless” poor, especially women and young girls.

Sharon with Muslim women meetOnce a month, women meet and collectively save money in a trust fund with contributions among themselves, which they can borrow on family emergencies.

Economic empowerment of these workers is at the heart of Sharon’s personal mission, where she firmly believes that all female workers must have equal economic opportunities and become aware of their own human rights, to be able to determine the conditions of their work and life styles.

Imagine Creating One Global Village Bazaar (Market) on the Internet

“Of course, most women’s projects are regularly faced with the dilemma: Why is everything made more difficult for the female? There is the lack of adequate transportation … budget funding … language barriers…and the most difficulty existence of being uneducated.

“For me, my research showed that a global market is the only way forward for these disadvantaged people … and I know it can work. However, there is the need for initial funding for the start-up, and then the promotion of the goods … which are the most difficult parts in early negotiations, in order to get this project off the ground.

sharon Indonesia womenWomen are eager to work and provide for their children​ and family members “I know it will require a few knowledgeable graphic workers to set up the website … so small payment expenses of the micro-funding will be used for social science university students, at times working as “intern” volunteer workers must be listed in the budget … which must include annual travel expenses to visit isolated village areas …

“Therefore, I have suggested to VOWW to apply for foundation grants, request members and other organizations to visualize and start the first “Co-Operative of micro-funding loans” to assist the women to buy extra items in order to develop and produce more of their traditional handicrafts and repair their ancient weaving equipment.

“Unfortunately I learned there is this total lack of basic funding for small scale industry in Indonesia … That needs to be addressed first … small micro-loans are an absolute necessity, if we are to see this project come to fruition.

The human talents here are endless … actually mind blowing!”

I am amazed this has not been taken on as a viable priority option to assist these people and their craftsmanship. When I spoke to the weavers, they smiled and nodded their heads … to produce more there is a need for some initial funding … as well as in the case of volunteer workers … but it is the difficulty of available funds, which is non-existent, either from the government or donations.

Sharon Indonesia Chpt 1 - CopyChildren are taught at a young age to work along side with their mothers, and enjoy the tasks as “playing” and learning the art …

“Had I not decided to use my own limited funds to buy a ticket and come to Indonesia … I would not have witnessed this humbling experience of seeing these women and young girls (considered illiterate) producing such amazing textiles and intricate handicrafts designs. I simply could not understand why someone with some money, has not set up a “global fund” … so these poor people can have access to some kind of limited funds … to buy the necessary materials to make and produce their products for International sales. Instead, I saw that they barely survive and continue to battle each day to find raw materials to continue their work. While a handful of possible funders get richer … greedy in refusing a fair share of the profits.

“Addressing these particular issues surrounding initial funding, both the volunteers and the handicrafts workers need immediate attention.”

“Thanks to Sophia, I caught a bus and then a ferry ride over to another Indonesia island. It was the same story. So many young girls and disabled women with such amazing talents, were unable to access some initial funds … and just sat around desperately needing help to continue doing the work that would sustain their daily living.

Sharon in Bali Sofia Giranda“My mind has been working on searching different models of sustainability. They could be inspired and motivated to improving on their humble life skills. Instead of just knitting or crochet, they could be taught to use modern sewing machines to re-produce more products using their creative minds. Once a week, they could attend evening language classes and learn English and other languages along side with the younger children .

There is so much that can be done to fill the many gaps among those hundreds, if not thousands of willing women with open minds, desperate to learn new skills for survival … in order to understand and compete in the their national and international market place.

“When I prepared to leave for Surabaya in a few days with my Indonesian hostess Sofia Giranda (in whose home I resided) as she became my guide for the duration of my stay in Indonesia. Without her presence, I would never have been able to navigate my way around this beautiful country.

“There was a lack of basic English among the natives which became a real problem while buying food or getting on the Internet. It is very difficult if one does not know the Indonesian language. And it was with Sofia’s help that I had this unique opportunity … not only to meet with the locals … but understand their daily needs, wants and desires. Sharon, Loma and Sofia, “Arriving in Indonesia was a most inspirational experience … after a few minor hiccups with my visa, the beautiful city of Bali was awesome.

“During this trip, we visited the Island of Madura, where the traditional Madurese people reside, mostly of Muslim decent and interestingly, large numbers are traders and fishermen, while their women folk make handicrafts and weave textiles. Next we moved to catch the ferry overnight to Borneo, where we mingled with the Dayak people – the most isolated from the world. A nomadic tribe, once fishermen, who live within the jungle as traders, making some of the most amazing crafts. For a photographer like me, it was the most brilliant colorful sight, I felt tempted to film them.

Sharon Sofia on bike“So to conclude, I have decided to work towards finding the need for the crucial funding of $25,000 which must be the first priority … so we can start addressing the problem. A summary report and business plan are being prepared. Without it, I now it will be difficult to complete the crucial stories that need to be told … to bring inspirational attention in the world.

“I really feel we need to address this initial funding as an urgent part of VOWW’s work to give “voices” to those voiceless talented women, young girls and children living in the backwaters of Indonesia.

“Another way to substitute my volunteering work, I am preparing articles in order to publish my travels while meeting and filming the local people along the way … and educating the masses around the world.
 
 
“Never forgetting for a moment the wonderful cultural experiences I had and am being privileged to captureleaving behind good friends …”

teal rose bannerSharon and Sophiateal rose banner

 
“Salamat tinggal … “Goodbye” in Indonesian … We will meet again soon.​

 

 

 

A Celebration of Women

welcomes this visionary into our global Alumni with open arms, looking forward to future collaborations in bettering the lives of all women and children.

 
carnations
 

Brava Sharon

 

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Comments

  1. Thanks to Catherine Anne Clark Publisher of A CELEBRATION OF WOMEN’s portrait of Sharon Mather, Co-Founder of VOICES OF WOMEN WORLDWIDE at http://voicesofwomenworldwide-vowwtv.ning.com

    United as women around the world – let us stand together and help our sisters … giving strong loud voices to them to “tell” their stories with dignity and pride and find solutions to problems. The more we read and learn about the devastating condition of women and young girls … the more we need to stand together and work on project proposals to make life easier and eradicate the violence and abuse … demand for our human rights as the female sex …

    Here is one example of a woman from New Zealand via Australia who is trying to make a difference … we need women to join hands and see how we can all help – not just one or two … but whole communities of women … Therefore, VOWW invites readers of A Celebration to Women to contribute by suggesting ideas and know-how, as we need to raise $25,000 to get this Indonesian Women’s Financial Cooperate moving forward … Contact Sharon Mather at shazzi@windowslive.com

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