JAKARTA (ILO News): Growing numbers of Indonesian women and men continue to opt for overseas labour migration as the best way of securing an adequate income for their families and escaping poverty. However, the social and economic costs of migration to the workers and their families are many, but are often poorly understood and documented.
As an effort to document the lives and migration experiences of Indonesian migrant domestic workers, the International Labour Organization (ILO) is going to launch a photo essay titled “The Long Road Home: Journeys of Indonesian Migrant Workers” on Thursday, 29 September 2011, from 14.00 – 17.00 WIB, at Teater Kecil, Taman Ismail Marzuki (TIM), Cikini, Jakarta. The launch will be opened by Muhaimin Iskandar, Minister of Manpower and Transmigration, Linda Amalia Gumelar, Minister of Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection, and Peter van Rooij, Country Director of the ILO in Indonesia.
The photo essay is developed by the ILO in collaboration with Sim Chi Yin, a Singaporean photojournalist who is now based in Beijing, China. Her experiences in reporting migrant workers’ lives in Singapore, particularly the Indonesian migrant workers, for the local press, covering cases of physical abuse, unpaid wages, illegal and grimy dormitories, injury and, sometimes, death had encouraged her to take a personal journey to visit the families and communities of migrant domestic workers in Central Java, Indonesia.
Chi Yin, in her remarks of the essay, said that “in writing about these workers' plight, I was often asked by Singaporeans: “If things are so bad in Singapore, why do they keep coming?” This question, among other questions, had pushed her to find some answers that are documented in the essay. “The essay was a stab at documenting vignettes of the journeys that hundreds of thousands of Indonesians embark on each year, leaving their home to work far from their family. It was also my attempt to flesh out the lives of the workers many of us host in our homes – lives we cannot always see,” she said in the essay.
Consisting of an approximately 80 photos, the essay illustrates the journeys taken by the Indonesian domestic migrant workers throughout the cycles of migration from pre-departure and departure stages to placement and reintegration stages. In their own words, these women and their families speak about their daily lives, intimate moments, difficult migration decisions and everyday heroism in the face of financial struggles and adversity while migrating.
“The ILO trusts that the photo essay will raise awareness and a sense of priority in the public and among decision-makers in Indonesia and destination countries in Asia and the Middle East. ILO believes that such awareness will aid the development of the required labour and human rights protections, as well as targeted economic community development initiatives, which this large and growing group of poor migrants and their families so urgently need,” stated Peter van Rooij, the ILO’s Country Director in Indonesia, commenting the publication of the photo essay.
The launch will be followed by a photo exhibition, displaying 20 selected photos from the photo essay, that will be held from 2 – 5 October 2011 at Graha Cipta III, TIM, Jakarta. Opened for public, the exhibition is aimed to raise interest in and awareness of the public at large of the plight and conditions of Indonesian domestic migrant workers and their families. An interactive discussion titled “The Long Journey of Justice for Indonesian Migrant Workers” will also be held on 5 October from 14.00 – 17.00 to mark the closing of the photo exhibition.
As the second largest sending country, some 700.000 documented Indonesian migrant workers leave the country for work abroad, primarily in East and South East Asia as well as the Middle East. Of these, 78 per cent work as domestic workers. In 2009, around 4.3 million Indonesians were estimated to be working abroad. Even though Indonesian migrant workers are the second largest contributor to Indonesia’s foreign exchange incomes, amounting to about USD 2.4 billion annually, many of these “foreign exchange heroes” experience exploitation and abuse throughout the migration process, both in Indonesia and abroad.
The photo essay is developed by the ILO through its Combating Forced Labour and Trafficking of Indonesian Migrant Workers Project. Funded by the Government of Norway, the Project aims to strengthen the protection of migrant workers against trafficking and forced labour practices as well as empower them financially to provide financial alternatives to hazardous overseas labour conditions and migration practices.
For further information please contact:
Chief Technical Adviser of the ILO Migrant Workers Project
Tel. +6221 3913112 ext. 130
Albert Y. Bonasahat
National Coordinator of the ILO Migrant Workers Project
Tel. +6221 3913112 ext. 125
Media Relations Officer
Tel. +6221) 3913112 ext. 115