At her home in the Central Java city of Solo, the petite and
cheerful Ayu Trihandayani uses an engraving tool, known as
a canting, to put hot wax onto a piece of cloth. The 27-yearold
is making batik, but the way she works the tool is unusual: she
does it with her toes.
As a child, Ayu’s arms and hands did not develop properly, but
her passion for making batik was strong. So Ayu instead uses her
feet, earning money to help her parents and siblings. Batik is an
icon and source of pride for Indonesia, and many Indonesians wear
batik every Friday.
Ayu learned the craft in high school and trained to be a batik
artist. Luck shone on her, as a neighbor, Abu Bakar, was a stamp
batik businessman who was aware of her skills. She has since
designed batik patterns for him; there are several other disabled
people employed by Abu Bakar.
When she creates batik designs, Ayu’s right foot skillfully
balances a canting filled with hot wax between her toes. She is
very independent. She can help her siblings with their homework
and do household chores including washing clothes and cooking.
As a teenager, Ayu felt inferior to her peers but her determination
enabled her to overcome this, and she went to school without being
escorted or picked up by her parents. From there, her confidence
and determination grew.
Ayu is one of millions of Indonesians with a disability. In 2016,
the Indonesian House of Representatives passed a law on the rights
of people with disabilities, requiring companies to reserve 1 percent
of their workforce for people with disabilities. Few companies have
fulfilled this requirement, but Ayu hopes that will change.