Hasria Sarianto: Founder of Poklasar

ANGIN Women’s Spotlight series seeks to showcase a diverse array of inspiring women leaders and their stories and experiences in order to shed light on the unique experiences of women in business. We hope that both men and women can gain from these shared experiences, that these stories can inspire change, and that other young girls are motivated to become leaders as well.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Hasria Sarianto. I run a food processing business called Poklasar, which stands for Kelompok Pengolahan Pemasar.  We process fish for consumption and sell to outside the area. I am also a women’s activist; I often look after women who have problems in their families. Through this work, I noticed that many women were treated badly – largely because they are dependent on the husband. Thus, some friends and I initiated Poklasar to empower housewives and give them economic independence. In fact, they are helping their husbands earn extra income. Poklasar not only received an award from the government but is also now a legal chapter recognized by the government.

What are some challenges you have faced in business?

Our business started in 2015, but we have encountered many obstacles including a lack of tools. For example, we don’t have enough equipment available to make our processed fish balls, nuggets, and makasang products.  We still chop the fish manually, which limits our production capacity despite the abundance of fish available.  Furthermore, people usually use tenggiri fish to make meatballs, but we use another type of fish for economic reasons.

If the first issue is about tools procurement, the second issue is obtaining funding to buy proper machineries needed to develop and grow the business. We crafted proposals to a government agency – DINAS – but they have to serve so many others that they certainly cannot contribute to our business group. As such, our business goes as usual and remains small.  

For marketing, we need help: creating better packaging to be more interesting. We also need to understand better about water content so that our products can last longer.  We need to hire professionals and need to learn more. Our processes are done the traditional way with very limited tools.

Is your business mostly women?

We only have one group consisting of 10 people who all play their respective roles. There are some housewives who make meatballs. The other group handles marketing. Most are housewives from the village and do not have the skills to work outside home. Hence, they did not have much to do other than maintaining the household and cooking. Now they no longer dependent on their husbands, since they can earn their own living. That’s the main purpose – we cans achieve gender equality through economic independence.

Are there still negative stereotypes about women in Manado?

Yes, particularly in the rural areas and in the coastal areas. The coastal area is about 2 hours away from Manado. Activists should also care about the coastal areas so that women will also be aware of their rights. Sometimes when people are deprived, they act differently.  But when they are empowered, they will believe that they can do anything.

Is the awareness of this issue better now?

It has gotten better as the the old cultures that limited women are finally relaxed as well. Women have a lot of potential, but they have never been given the opportunity or enough money.  

What was your previous job?

I am a housewife and started as a housewife as well. But I do social work because I actually got involved in many women’s organizations.

Why did you start this business?

I am a female activist. Many women came complaining because their husbands control the money and they felt powerless.  Later, many women became victims of domestic violence because they had no bargaining power with the men. Based on this, I believed that these women should be given space and opportunities to be independent and make their own money so that it would not be so easy to be harmed, beaten or cheated. I want all the women I can reach to feel that they are entitled to independence.

What challenges did you experience in obtaining funding?

Once, we requested support from the government because at the time, the government promised that the tools we needed would be prepared. But then the procurement did not match what we asked for and did not meet our needs. The goods ended up being stored and not used.

Are there still many women who do not dare to ask the bank for a loan?

Now it’s easy to get a loan. In our system, when one is married, it is surely the husband applying for a loan. In our country, it should be the head of the family, except if the wife is a single parent.

What are your thoughts about the future of this group?

There is a lot of potential; these women hope to make new development and change for a better future. I think this group will need to grow as well. But it it is constrained due to budget and funding, as it has been self-financed for a long time. Fundraising is still in dire need because my aspirations for the group are to actually have better results both internally and externally from the group.

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