Led by Erwiana Sulistyaningsih, the former migrant domestic worker from Indonesia who was tortured by her Hong Kong employers and who won her case – migrant workers in Indonesia and their families held a Migrant Workers Rising for International Women’s Day last March 8th. Erwiana, whose case in 2014 became the focus of One Billion Rising for Justice protests in Hong Kong which helped sustain visibility and harness global solidarity for her case – has become the symbol of resistance, courage and hope for the millions of migrant and domestic workers around the world who still continue to face grave forms of abuse, violence and exploitation. Erwiana, who is now completing her college education, is now a staunch activist for migrant workers rights and is one of the leading advocates for the One Billion Rising campaign in Indonesia.
JBMI (the Network of Indonesian Migrant Workers) have also been the long time organizers of One Billion Rising in Hong Kong and Indonesia.
Together, Erwiana and JBMI – held a Rising event and danced the new Bahasa version of “Break the Chain” with their original Indonesia choreography in Ponorogo City and in Jogjakarta, Indonesia – last March 8th.
The Asian Migrants Coordinating Body (where JBMI is a member) – long time co-coordinators of One Billion Rising Hong Kong – also led a march and rising on the streets of Hong Kong to demand full rights and protection for all migrant workers to celebrate International Women’s Day.
Statement of the Family of Indonesian Migrant Workers (EARTH NEWS) and JBMI
On the commemoration of International Women’s Day 2017
March 8, 2017
MIGRANT WORKERS RISE TO RESIST NEO-LIBERAL GLOBALISATION
Family of Indonesian Migrant Workers (NEWS EARTH) – a member of the Network of Indonesian Migrant Workers (JBMI) – an alliance consisting of organizations of migrant workers, former migrant workers and their families in Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan and Indonesia – say Happy Women’s Day to all women workers wherever located.
The spirit of the struggles of women workers 100 years ago must continue to go on, because the condition of women is still far from prosperous. The system is deliberately being maintained to keep people in poverty, the lack of guaranteed education, health, low labor costs and also systemic monopoly to land aggravate the lives of women and doubles their oppression. Women who want to support their families, mothers who do not want their children to go hungry, and who do not receive health insurance and education are forced to go abroad to seek more viable livelihood for the family and the future of their children.
The system is run on sending workers abroad and the country (Indonesia) has benefited from it. Reduced unemployment has meant increased state treasury. 10 million migrant workers, documented or undocumented, have accounted for remittances from abroad amounting to Rp. 144 trillion per year. This is what has prompted the government to further boost the delivery of “Roadmap 2017” – which is now packed with jargon like “safe migration” or “competitive labor market” or “zero PRT”- and is being used as the entry point to mobilize millions of people to “want” to work abroad.
But for every dollar there is sacrifice, sweat, tears, blood and even the lives of migrant workers. Countless violations, extortion, violence, rape, human, sex and organ trafficking,and the death of migrant workers. Not to mention the millions of families that must be torn apart and children who are forced to grow up without their mothers. As the data reported by BBC Indonesia (March 6, 2017) states – as many as 350 children in the village of Wanasaba East Lombok district were forced to be left by parents who had to work abroad because they cannot sustain any form of livelihood due to the low wages of farm workers, the high cost of agricultural inputs and the imbalanced selling price of agricultural products which are not sufficient for the needs of everyday life.
Despite their overwhelming contribution and sacrifice to the family, the state and society, workers have never had their rights recognized to this day. Although the government revised the laws to supposedly protect the rights of migrant workers, these changes have merely been in name only. The government still forces domestic workers to enter PPTKIS / PJTKI (prohibiting independent contract for individual users). And domestic workers is the biggest work for members of BMI and the majority are women. There are no mechanisms to demand compensation for the BMI / BMI candidates who are harmed by recruitment agencies. The existence of unions or organizations of migrant workers to be involved in policy making and undocumented migrant workers also do not exist.
Recognition as workers and protection of the rights of migrant workers in Indonesian law is the first and foremost step that the government should do to fix the exploitative conditions towards workers. Without this recognition, the cases of migrant workers will only be news but it will not be converted into an open dialogue in order to create better regulations.
The government just wants the workers money but not the fulfillment of their rights. Just because because women are poor it doesn’t mean that their voices should not be considered.
Women Migrants Rise to Organize For Migrant Workers!
With the spirit of International Women’s Day in 2017, now is the time for migrant women throughout the country and the families of migrant workers in this country to gather the strength to resist all forms of oppression and exploitation. We must continue to fight for the improvement of the livelihood of migrant workers and their families. We must fight against all the policies that harm and do not provide true protection for migrant workers and their families. We must fight that migrant workers be recognized as workers and given full rights as a worker. Migrant workers and their families have to fight for their aspirations to be accepted in terms of policy development on the issue of migrant workers. Migrant workers and their families should also be actively involved in the struggle of the people of Indonesia as well as to be in solidarity with other oppressed and exploited people around the world.
This International Women’s Day in 2017, we – from the Family of Indonesian Migrant Workers (EARTH NEWS) and JBMI demand:
1. To Stop Human Trafficking, and provide redress for victims of human trafficking!
2. To Stop Overcharging, and not to force us to sign with recruitment agencies
3. To Involve BMI In discussions with the government
4. To Acknowledge BMI as a worker, and to give the Right to Organize For BMI!
5. To Unplug Law No.39 / 2004, and to create a true protection act in accordance with the 1990 UN Convention and ILO 188 & 189!
6. To Save the BMI from the Death Penalty!
7. and To Stop Violence Against Women Migrants!