As MCO continues, B40 women entrepreneurs struggle to maintain online businesses | Malaysia


A woman works from home amid the movement control order in Shah Alam April 15, 2020. — Picture by Miera Zulyana
A woman works from home amid the movement control order in Shah Alam April 15, 2020. — Picture by Miera Zulyana

KUALA LUMPUR, July 6 — Many of the women entrepreneurs from the bottom 40 per cent household (B4) income group who pivoted to selling their products online during the first lockdown last year have grown disheartened as business flagged this time round.

The extended lockdown has seen many of them struggle to hold on to their business as the drastically diminished purchasing power of consumers has impacted sales.

Datin Goh Suet Lan, president of Women of Will (WoW), told Malay Mail that many of the women who participated in its entrepreneurship programmes during the early days of the lockdown subsequently built their businesses online.

They then saw their business grow during the second movement control order (MCO) but now things have taken a turn for the worse.

“During the first MCO, 30 per cent of those in business survived but with the introduction of digital marketing, we found the number of businesses grew,” she explained.

Trainers teaching the women how to adapt their businesses online and how to market their products.
Trainers teaching the women how to adapt their businesses online and how to market their products.

The NGO said during MCO 2.0, a healthy 70 per cent managed to hang on to their business.

“We thought that during MCO 3.0, this number would go up but instead it’s gone down to 60 per cent.

“We have been conducting surveys since last year and we have tangible facts that apart from financial challenges, no customers and inability to open physically, many have been affected emotionally and the mental hardships are more so this third round,” she said.

“They’ve lost the will to continue as they put so much into building up to MCO 2.0 where things were getting better… then the third one hit and they lost business and they’re demotivated.

“It’s difficult to live in a people’s housing project (PPR) with five to eight people in a unit and imagine going into quarantine… You can’t go out to buy your things to market your products, cases are still high so you’re stuck at home and the financial and emotional stress can be devastating.”

According to TECH Outreach president Amaravathi Navaratnam, many of the women who relied on working at home and had online businesses were single mothers or housewives.

They not only had to try to find a side income, they also had to cook, clean and supervise their children.

A free baking class organised by Women of Will.
A free baking class organised by Women of Will.

Schools in Malaysia have been closed due to the pandemic and are only expected to reopen in September or October when Phase Three of the National Recovery Plan (NRP) kicks in.

Amaravathi said many school kids have dropped out and parents are struggling to keep them in check.

“These kids are dropping out of school and wasting their time,” she said. “We want to find them and get them in our programmes so we can get them on the right track.

“The mothers are struggling to find employment and they need to focus on work but the children can’t focus as they’re not in school.”

Amaravathi said they have programmes to help empower youth from impoverished households and as such they and WoW are organising a virtual treasure hunt on July 11 to raise funds.

The virtual treasure hunt is open to the public.

The first prize is RM1,000 and the money raised will be used for programmes to help the women and children get back on their feet. Registration closes on July 7, 2021.

The entry fee is RM200 and so far, 34 teams have registered. For more details go to http://bit.ly/TECHWOWVirtualHunt2021 or head to their social media pages on Facebook.



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