Today was a really amazing and emotional day here in Hong Kong. Last year Erwiana, a domestic worker from Indonesia working in Hong Kong was severely tortured by her Hong Kong employer and was close to death from the cruelty and severity of the violence inflicted on her. At last year’s Hong Kong One Billion Rising for Justice event, thousands of migrant and domestic workers from all over Asia working in Hong Kong and migrant groups based in other countries called for Justice for Erwiana as part of their One Billion Rising call. Thousands of domestic workers took part. Because of the committed and steadfast efforts of the organised Filipino and Indonesian migrant groups in Hong Kong and in Indonesia, Erwiana’s case went to court and last week, her employer was found guilty. Last year as she lay nearly dying on her hospital bed, Erwiana spoke to the One Billion Rising risers at the event via phone. Today, a year later, after her victory in court, Erwiana was with us for One Billion Rising Revolution- dancing with us all afternoon, our two Philippine One Billion Rising songs and “Break The Chain” all of which everyone danced over 16 times! The energy was amazing as migrants and domestic workers called for revolution and for an end to modern day slavery, forced labor export policies that exploit people for profit (all domestic workers pay hefty fees to their home governments), social exclusion, and called for social change so that one day they can all go back home to their families and not have to work abroad where they suffer other forms of violence. Over and over again migrant and domestic workers highlighed international solidarity.
We honoured Erwiana for her bravery and inspiration, for her courage to face her perpetrator and go through her public trial and relive all the pain and agony she went through. It was an emotional moment as all she kept saying to me as we embraced onstage was thank you to the solidarity and support everyone had given her. And true, equally moving and inspiring was the truly powerful and unbreaking solidarity her fellow migrant and domestic workers had given her. This was why the non stop dancing was like no other. It was joyful and militant, celebratory and radically empowering, and the collective energy it was harnessing was indescribable.
Erwiana danced with all of us, laughing and giggling, and it was so moving to see her happy and smiling and well, after remembering the horrific photos of her so severely beaten and tortured last year. In her speech she thanked all the fellow migrants and domestic workers for their support, and thanked One Billion Rising for the national and global solidarity it gave her.
At dinner tonight as we embraced to say goodbye, Erwiana invited us to come to Indonesia. She told she me is planning to organise a huge One Billion Rising Revolution event at her school where she is now a college scholar taking up economics. I looked around me, at her – a beautiful young woman with the most amazing spirit, and I looked at all my migrant Filipino and Indonesian friends, members of Gabriela and Migrante Hong Kong- many of them my friends from 15 years ago when we did “The Vagina Monologues” for and with the migrant communities here, and I thought to myself – for me this is the heart and core of One Billion Rising Revolution: the most marginalized voices at the forefront, their issues prioritized and made visible, the profound power of dance to empower and bring together people for a shared cause, both in joy and in militant rage, and the power and value of global solidarity- of knowing how profoundly we are all connected to each other. How other people’s issues are our own. Today, dancing with thousands of domestic workers in Hong Kong, from Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, Sri Lanka and Nepal – and Rising for Revolution together with them to end modern day slavery- I am humbled and inspired to my core. They teach me what it means to deeply love and to truly care, and to stand fully side by side with each other for a future they dream and fight for: a future with dignity. This is revolution.