Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Florence Jaukae makes the world her stage

Everyone under the perennial-springtime climate of Goroka seems to know Florence Jaukae.
She has time for everyone, her smiles are contagious, and she is heavily involved in community affairs and charity work.
I know, because I spent almost five years working in Goroka for the Coffee Industry Corporation, and often passed her on her way to work at Frameworks Architects.
Such is the popularity of this 36-year-old woman that, in a male-dominated society such as that of the Eastern Highlands, Jaukae is a Ward 4 councillor in the Goroka Rural Local Level Government.
And she is known for her no-nonsense approach during council sessions!
However, it is with the seemingly-ubiquitous bilum, that she is making a name for herself, Goroka, and Papua New Guinea.
Florence Jaukae hit the world stage in Melbourne in March 2006 when the Papua New Guinea team wore her products at the Commonwealth Games.
The mean wore bilum ties and the women bilum dresses supplied by her Goroka-based company Jaukae Bilumwear.
It was a proud moment for her, more so, when Ryan Pini won gold for Papua New Guinea in that moment forever etched in time.
Another big break for Jaukae came in September 2006 when the Small Business Development Corporation arranged for her to travel to Hanoi, Vietnam, to attend an APEC seminar on supporting and enhancing capacity for women exporters.
Entrants in the Miss Papua New Guinea quest wore her dresses at crowing night last December.
Now, in a seemingly never-ending story, the Investment Promotion Authority arranged for her to attend an expo in Australia.
Indeed, Jaukae has made the world her stage, from very humble beginnings at her Kama village in Goroka about five years ago.
It was then that she started making and wearing dresses made like bilums.
The fad caught on in Goroka, the rest of Papua New Guinea, and the world is now Jaukae’s stage.
“We’re doing very well,” Jaukae says.
“SBDC has been very supportive and this has enabled us to get a loan from the Rural Development Bank.
“We’re got overseas customers, however, that I will not disclose because of increasing competition from other bilum dress makers.
“All I can say is that we’ve got a lot of interest from people overseas, mainly Australians.”
Jaukae Bilumwear involves about 50 women who spin and weave the wool to make dresses and other items of clothing at Kama.
“I buy the wool, give it to them, and they weave the dresses,” Jaukae says.
“They give the dresses to me and I find the customers.
“It is a labour-intensive industry.
“It can take up to two months to make a dress.
“That’s why the average cost per dress is about K300.
“The reality of it is that I don’t benefit.

“It is the women who make bilum dresses who benefit.
“About two-thirds of income goes to them while one-third comes to me, mainly to cover telephone and other administrative costs.
“We’ve come a long way over the last five to six years.”
Jaukae, however, feels that the women weavers need a lot more government assistance, especially in marketing.
She also feels that women must have readily-available access to credit, training in business, and knowledge of computers in this day and age.
“Every woman can make a bilum,” she says.
“It comes to us naturally as Papua New Guinean women.
“The government must help us find a market because the benefits trickle right down to the unemployed mothers.
“It will also fight against poverty.
“This is a new industry we’ve created in the country.
“We don’t want flattering remarks.
“We want your help.
“Marketing is the problem.
“We are looking at the government to help us find markets outside of the country.”
The future?
“I want to see this become a big industry in the country, because it is an industry for the grassroots,” Jaukae replies.
“The government should also look at creating a national dress for the country, and of course, I’m putting my hand up for bilum wear!”
People who wish to purchase genuine Jaukae bilum products can contact Florence Jaukae on mobile (675) 6868994 or email jaukaebilumwear@hotmail.com.

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