Our impact, their voices
From migrant worker to labour unionist
Learning from her exploitative experiences as a migrant domestic worker, Dina Nuriyati has become a tireless labour advocate and unionist, promoting better protection and services for Indonesian migrant workers in all cycles of migration.
The plights of Indonesian migrant workers, particularly women migrant workers, were also the plight that she knew too well as a migrant domestic worker in Hong kong more than two decades ago. She started her journey as a migrant worker in the aged of 17 years old after finishing high school without knowing her labour rights. She only knew that she had to help freeing her family from debts.
With my lack of knowledge, I did not see these conditions as a serious problem. I did not have access to information except what the employment agency told me. I did not know that what I and other migrant workers experience is a violation of rights."Dina Nuriyati
Dina spent the next two years navigating Hong Kong, hoping to save her earnings to support her family and to continue her dream of going to university. Yet, she received no salary and no day off for two months. Afterwards, she only received far less salary of HK$2000 ($258) than the actual salary stipulated in the contract (HK$3860 ($497). She was also only granted two days off per month, half the legal requirement.
“With my lack of knowledge, I did not see these conditions as a serious problem. I did not have access to information except what the employment agency told me. I did not know that what I and other migrant workers experience is a violation of rights,” she said. At that time, what matter the most for her was no violent treatment from her employer.
She began to realize her rights when she met other migrant workers from Indonesia and other countries during her language class that she took during her day off. She also became active in the migrant workers’ coalition. As a result, three years later in 1999, she managed to gain a new contract in which she paid according to her contract and she was granted the mandatory one day off per week.
Transforming into a labour activistUpon her return to Indonesia, Dina continued her advocacy works to ensure that women migrant workers were equipped with the knowledge and resources to avoid the kind of exploitation she experienced. She also realized her dream by going to the university and earning her Master degree on labor policies and globalization in 2009 from Kassel University and Berlin School of Economic and Law in Germany.
Labor issues have become a lifelong passion for me."Dina Nuriyati
“Labor issues have become a lifelong passion for me,” she said.
To continue promoting labour rights of migrant workers, Dina has been involved in the participatory action research (PAR) programme as a research coordinator since 2019, a joint programme between the ILO’s Safe and Fair programme, SBMI and Ministry of Manpower. Focusing on the enhancement of services for women migrant workers and their families at the village level, the PAR programme was initially conducted in five villages in five districts known as sending areas of migrant workers and has now been expanded to 36 villages.
“I am delighted to be involved in this programme. Through this programme, I have a chance to share my experiences and engage all stakeholders at the village level from local authorities, community leaders to migrant workers, potential migrant workers and their families to have better understanding about labour migration and to be part of the efforts to provide better services on migration to prevent exploitation and trafficking,” Dina said.
The services has included more-gender responsive services by providing authoritative information, case management (including referrals), legal aid and other support services to potential, current and returnee women migrant workers and their families."Sinthia Dewi Harkrisnowo, the ILO’s coordinator of Safe and Fair programme
“The integration has extended services given to directly reach communities of migrant workers and to go beyond administrative services. The services has included more-gender responsive services by providing authoritative information, case management (including referrals), legal aid and other support services to potential, current and returnee women migrant workers and their families,” explained Sinthia Dewi Harkrisnowo, the ILO’s coordinator of Safe and Fair programme.
The EU funded Safe and Fair Programme, implemented by the ILO and UN Women. The programme aims to strengthen women migrant workers’ leadership, voice and agency through increased engagement with governments, workers and employers organizations as well as women and migrant networks.