Press Release

Local enterprise looks to trade internationally

31/05/2018

Showcasing Papua New Guinea’s cultural identity to the world is not always an easy task. Multiple cultural identities and varying traditional practices makes Papua New Guinea (PNG) a unique member of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC).

Showcasing Papua New Guinea’s cultural identity to the world is not always an easy task. Multiple cultural identities and varying traditional practices makes Papua New Guinea (PNG) a unique member of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC).

However, almost all of PNG’s thousand or so ethnic groups have one thing in common, and that is the traditionally woven bag, commonly known as the ‘bilum’.

Bilums are now being introduced to the rest of the world, by local Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) hoping to export PNG culture across boundaries.

A local MSME that has already achieved this is Bilum Culture, a local Papua New Guinean enterprise owned and operated by Ms Sharlene Gawi.

She sources bilums’ from the East Sepik Province and each bilum is handmade from natural fibers and dyes. Apart from the traditional bilum, the enterprise has also begun designing and producing export quality satchels from the same fibers used to create a bilum.

During the APEC First Senior Officials’ Meeting (SOM1) earlier this year, Ms Gawi was approached by a delegate who showed interest in her products and addressed the possibility of importing leather from overseas, to create bilum inspired laptop cases, which is difficult to source locally.

“During SOM1 we were approached by a delegate from Indonesia and he was interested about our bilum and leather products and he volunteered to organise some samples from a dealer he knew.

“Whilst exhibiting at the Second Senior Officials’ Meeting (SOM2), I now have the samples and I’m gearing up to purchase and produce my products to be ready for the Third Senior Officials’ Meeting (SOM3),” Ms Gawi said.

Bilum Culture registered their business name with the Investment Promotion Authority (IPA) earlier this year and has since attended international events such as the Women of the World (WOW) Festival in Brisbane, Australia. “We are not a social enterprise, we believe in acquiring and selling products of the highest quality for profit. Products that capture the authenticity of Papua New Guinea’s bilums and culture”

“We strive to strengthen and grow our value chain as we produce superior quality, tasteful, export grade inspired products.

“We treat our weavers and producers as suppliers in the value chain and negotiate accordingly.

“We do not believe in presenting our business or products in such manner like 'buy this and you help save a family.’

“As much as our people need help, they are also hard working and when challenged, are willing and capable of producing beautiful products to be sold commercially, both locally and internationally,” Ms Gawi stressed.

Ms Gawi aims to have her new line of products available and ready for sale for the next Senior Officials’ Meeting, SOM3, in August this year.

For enquiries into Bilum Culture’s products, contact Sharlene Gawi on: +675 7391 2581 or email: sharlene.gawi@gmail.com

For more information on MSMEs, please contact the APEC Co-ordination Authority MSME Team at: msmeexpo@apec2018png.org