On November 19, 2020, a Focus Group Discussion (FGD) on researching Women’s Financial Access and Production Needs in Gorontalo was held online via Zoom. The FGD discussed the experiences of women entrepreneurs in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. It was attended by seven participants consisting of women entrepreneurs from three districts/municipalities of the NSLIC/NSELRED pilot project in Gorontalo Province and representing several different types of business and sectors, such as processed food, agriculture, and processed coconut (fresh cooking oil and virgin coconut oil).
Participants shared their experiences and strategies to maintain their business during the pandemic, such as reducing working hours and the number of workers; improving management systems, business strategies, and product packaging; and replacing some raw materials. Some started selling new products, such as rice, peanut brittle, Maryam bread, frozen food, books from training, and other types of food. The women reported that sales had decreased and the target market was limited to the local area even though they already relied on the online marketplace and social media, impacting their financial conditions. They acknowledged the difficulties in managing business finances and as a result, they used assets to meet household needs.
The current pandemic also affected their family or support network activities. Women’s domestic load increased so that the business activities had to be adjusted to one day working at home and one day working on the business. In carrying out all these activities, they were also assisted by their husbands, children, and relatives (nephews) at home.
Participants also said that they obtained support by accessing technology and information via cell phones or other devices. They obtained such information from the NSLIC/NSELRED-supported Association of Gorontalo Processed Coconut Oil (Asosiasi Olahan Kelapa Gorontalo or OKGo) through its aid program, the government, NGOs, and social media. Some participants had opportunities to obtain knowledge about business through online seminars, training and online surveys. Participants also took advantage of social media to sell their goods and services. The reason is, it can save marketing costs, reach customers widely, introduce products with a wide range, and are easy to use. Participants expressed interest in learning online marketing and e-commerce skills further with the motivation to develop their business, increase knowledge and hone marketing skills, and finally to maximize their business promotion efforts.