Restoring Faith: Women Entrepreneurs in Post-tsunami Aceh Disasters are gendered – women are more likely to be negatively impacted, and less likely to receive aid and support. After the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, there was a strong focus by donors and NGOs on empowering women. As part of the widely embraced ‘build back better’ approach, reconstruction programs in Aceh, Indonesia aimed to reduce economic vulnerabilities by encouraging women to move into the work force and start up businesses. Millions of dollars were spent on equipment, training, and micro-credit programs to enable women to become entrepreneurs. In almost every tsunami-affected village, collectives of women participated in sewing, baking, health care, financial literacy, business management, and marketing programs. As part of the Aftermath of Aid project, a collaboration between the Earth Observatory of Singapore, and the International Centre for Aceh and Indian Ocean Studies, we have been studying the impacts of livelihood programs for women to see if their status has changed in the post-disaster period. Overall, we have found that tradition is hard to overcome, and many of the aid projects have failed to deliver. Most women have returned to pre-disaster domestic roles. Donor-provided sewing machines lie unused in the living room or were sold to pay school fees for their children. Ambitious micro-credit programs have run out of money. However, some women have managed to build upon the foundation provided by aid programs and are now important contributors to their household income. For some, this involves doing part time work from their homes while their kids are in school. Women bake cakes to sell in local markets, work as tailors when orders come in, and run small grocery stores in front of their homes. Others have set up full time businesses, where they manage employees and train other women. Some of these women had no choice – their husbands were killed and they had to feed their children. Others threw themselves into the possibilities for a new life brought by the disaster and reconstruction. Our project is trying to better understand the factors that have helped these women succeed to see if ‘best practices’ can be employed to help women in future post-disaster situations. In this exhibit we focus on a small group of women whom have taken extraordinary steps to build businesses after the tsunami in the face of great loss and significant cultural barriers. While the overall aid efforts did not dramatically change the position of women within society, we hope that these pioneering women will help bring about longer-term changes in the empowerment of women in Aceh through their example of dedication, perseverance, and faith in themselves. The Aftermath of Aid Project is directed by Dr. Patrick Daly, Earth Observatory of Singapore, and Dr. Saiful Mahdi, Syiah Kuala University, Banda Aceh. Research on gender issues is led by Professor Eka Srimulyani, Dr. Marjaana Jauhola, and Era Maida, who along with their team conducted the interviews and provided translations.