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In Tambunan, Sabah, mothers are discovering their God-given potential in leadership and business

Through leadership and community development initiatives by Good Shepherd Services, mothers and women in Tambunan are stepping up with confidence.

Tambunan is a town of rolling hills tucked in the heart of Sabah, known for its cool weather and fertile soil. Communities here are tight-knit, with the majority involved in agriculture and farming. Here, two hours away from Kota Kinabalu (Sabah’s capital city), women’s voices are being strengthened through leadership and microenterprise.

In March 2020, Good Shepherd Services (GSS) launched a two-year project entitled, Strengthening Rural Women’s Leadership and Economic Empowerment for Transformative Change in Tambunan, Sabah, Malaysia.

Grassroots programmes empowering women to take hold of their own futures

Through two projects, Women in Leadership (WIL) and Women Support Group Tambunan Enterprise (WSGE), a total of 189 women and 9 men have completed training modules in leadership or microenterprise. 

Under WIL, participants were tasked with contributing to their communities by organising campaigns such as cleaning activities (gotong royong), hydroponic training, as well as sexual and gender-based violence awareness campaign.

Imelda George, GSS

The fruits are evident. So far, 23 women who took part in the leadership training have been elected into community leadership positions, while the agriculture/enterprise project has given 71 women a firm foothold in running a business. 

“The agriculture project provided…a significant opportunity to learn project management skills. The skill can be adapted to many other income generating activities, including product manufacturing. Management of the marketing hub and Shopee shop provides valuable insight on business operation management,” Imelda adds.

Everything Tambunan products displayed in WSGE’s marketing hub in Tambunan town.

WSGE, on the other hand, produces ginger-based products under the Everything Tambunan brand and markets its products through its marketing hub in Tambunan Town and on Shopee. As part of the programme, WSGE members were also given seed money for individual agricultural projects.

All 71 members of WSGE also belong to the Women Support Group Tambunan (WSG), a women support network formed in 2018 which advocates against Sexual and Gender-Based Violence. 

A more effective leader with improved confidence and increased family income – Julinah, 58

Julinah of Kampung Narayat is a single mother of two daughters. Her main source of income is paddy farming, but she also works on the farms of others for additional income.

Through her participation in WIL and WSGE, she has grown from strength to strength. Today, she is the Cluster Head of her group for WSGE, having demonstrated good leadership skills. She has also learned business concepts such as project management and marketing. 

“Overall, the programmes have gradually transformed my life in terms of self-confidence, time management, prioritising obligations, generating additional income and encouraging collaboration and teamwork with others.”

She added that as a widowed single mother, her dream is for her children to be able to pursue their education at a tertiary level. “I also hope to provide a better life for them,” she says. 

Grateful for the opportunity to learn modern technology in ginger farming and increase her family’s income – Daria, 53

Daria hails from Kampung Moloson, and is a mother to five grown children. Her husband works as a technician in the private sector, while she is a farmer and grows paddy. 

A keen learner, Daria joined WSGE in Phase 2 but has been extremely active since. She is also a Cluster Head of her group, and leads her group in manufacturing ginger products end-to-end. She learned the process of turning ginger into products such as powder, juice and candy. 

“I am grateful to GSS for providing me with the opportunity to learn how to use technology. I am also grateful that, since joining WSGE, I have been able to create revenue on my own, which was something I had never done before,”she said, adding that now she can contribute to her family’s income.

Daria also learned helpful skills such as time management, work-life balance and self-awareness, developing “a better understanding of myself by identifying my personal strengths and shortcomings.”

“I also hope that no matter how difficult the hardships they face, they will always draw on God and their faith.”


Although her children have all graduated from university, Daria thinks of them often as any mother would. Her hope is they will make informed decisions that are helpful, not harmful, and stay away from vices such as alcoholism and drug abuse. 

Daria with her husband, four sons, daughter and daughter in law.

“I also hope that no matter how difficult the hardships they face, they will always draw on God and their faith. Although I recognize that they are now adults, I believe that a mother’s job is to educate her children about negative situations and to teach them how to be decent citizens. 

“Finally, I always hope that my children will make the best choices possible in their lives, will not look back on their mistakes, and will be able to improve themselves in the future, achieving all their dreams and being successful in life,” she says.

We’re celebrating mothers like Julinah, Daria and so many others who have taken on the God-given responsibility of raising their children with grace, resilience and faith. This Mother’s Day, may we support and encourage every mother in our lives — the Lord is with you, dear mother. Thank you for being you.

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