Most of us who know about Biji-biji Initiative, a social enterprise that works hard to champion sustainable living and promotes the reuse of waste creatively might never have been able to guess how this business could go digital. But thanks to the determination of its CEO, Juliana Adam, who is also the co-founder of Me.reka, it happened. As the business moves forward, one of the many things that Juliana wants to do more of is to challenge the status quo and use her voice to make positive changes in society. “I want to be able to make a change and inspire those around me using the voice that I have instead of just being confined in the shell that I’m in,” she says.

Can you share with us some of the changes that Biji-biji Initiative had togo through during this pandemic?

“In the past, we had to go to communities, run workshops and awareness campaigns with the communities, etc. But a lot of it had to take a backseat when the pandemic happened. So we changed the way we interacted with our participants and how we presented ourselves to our clients.”

Personally, how have you been coping with the pandemic?

“In the past year, I’ve been upskilling myself. I’ve been reading and taking courses on leadership, and I’ve also started a side hobby to make earrings out of polymer clay.”

What was the one thing that you challenged yourself to do during this pandemic?

“I’m generally very passionate about seeing individuals grow so I subconsciously found myself being there for other people, being a better listener, being more encouraging and being a form of inspiration to others. I just gave people a little push to go and learn more about certain things because I feel that we all need that balance.”

ON JULIANA: RUCHED SLEEVE BLAZER, RM324.90, AND LONG SLEEVE SHIRT, RM109.90, BOTH MARKS & SPENCER. LEATHER-EFFECT ELASTIC WAIST TROUSERS, RM169, MANGO. KNITTED SOCK SNEAKERS, RM229.90, CHARLES & KEITH. EARRINGS, NECKLACES, BRACELET, AND RINGS, ALL LES GEORGETTES BY ALTESSE

How do you think you achieved that goal?

“I spoke to people within my circle and I would say that just a small push made a change in them. Biji-biji Initiative’s primary focus is on sustainability and it’s sad to see that things have taken a backseat because people have bigger problems at this point in time. Many people have lost their jobs and their source of income, there are health issues to worry about and so on. But from the environment’s POV, the pandemic has, in a way, been great as we could seethe impact it has created on the environment. So in line with this, I thought about ways in which we could upskill those who lost their jobs so that they can find a place back in the workforce. The programs that were conducted by Biji-biji Initiative aimed to equip them with skills as well as an alternative source of income.”

When the going gets tough, what keeps you going?

“To be honest, it’s my team members. We really operate like a close-knit family. Even the new members and interns who join us are treated the same. Based on what they’ve said before, I know that they also feel like they’re part of the family. So when things get tough, I know that I can lean on my team for support. Either mentally or emotionally, or even stepping in to do the work whenever there’s a slight lack of manpower – we can always depend on one another.”

What are the common misconceptions about the work that you do?

“People usually think that what we sell are dirty because they are made using recycled materials. A lot of them also think that we are recyclers, but we are really not.Although we do have a range of products made from waste, they are in a clean condition once we get them. It goes through a whole process before we actually turn them into something else. People also think that you need to be rich to be sustainable but it’s the small things you do in your daily life that matters.”

As a woman, what does this year’s International Women’s Day mean to you?

“To be honest, this year’s IWD is a lot more memorable for me. I think I’ve started to see myself and my worth as a woman more, and I’m not only starting to see it within myself but within my team as well. If there’s any imbalance within the team, I work with them to make it more balanced, and I want to be able to inspire them.”

In line with the IWD2021 theme ‘Choose to Challenge’, what is the one thing you’d like to challenge yourself to do more of in the coming year?

“I want to challenge the status quo and be able to use my voice to make a positive change. I’ve always downplayed things like positions, but I’ve come to realise that I’m in a position of power to help others. To show people that they can achieve more is ultimately what I want to use my voice for.”

To find out more about Juliana, click on the video below!

Photography & videography: Tan Guo Xiang
Art Direction:
Zariel Zahann
Styling:
Rachel Dulis
Coordination:
Vasenta Selvanayagam & Yang Mei Ling
Assisted by:
Angela De Souza
Makeup& hair:
Kenny Yee/Makeup Miracle

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