Dr. Welyne Jehom has been heading the Center for Malaysian Indigenous Studies since 2018, and teaches Anthropology and Sustainable Development at the University of Malaya. Since 2013, her research interest has been focused on the development of indigenous intangible knowledge as a tool for rural development from within the community, particularly, community empowerment in the production, dissemination and conservation of the RhGareh pua kumbu community in Sarawak.
The RhGareh Pua Kumbu Community Project consists of Iban women who are coming from or living at Rumah Gare, Sg. Kain, Kapit in Sarawak. Dr Welyne aims to elevate the cottage industry as the weaving traditions in the community have been traced back centuries ago, and the Iban woman are very secluded at Sg. Kain, Upper Balleh River, living without proper basic amenities like electricity and depend on river transportations.
The women are skillful weavers who produce unique and beautiful textile, but unfortunately do not have access to a proper market platform. They weave for middle parties to commercialise their Pua Kumbu with profitable returns, but only receive minimal compensation for their hard labour, valuable knowledge and skill.
The main purpose of the project is to alleviate poverty and to empower the community at Rumah Gare to lift up their livelihood. It also aims to create job opportunities for the rural Iban community from weaving activities, planting of dye plants, distribution of projects and hosting visitors at the longhouse for workshops and training.