“Being a fisher is the main profession in my village. My stepdad was a former fisher as well as most people in my neighbourhood. It is common for young males to choose working at sea instead of going to school,” told Annisa. “It is also common that my friends suddenly vanished, for us to discover they had left to work at sea.”
No more myths and only facts. I wish that my community were more aware of their rights and the importance of fishers to understand labour rights."Annisa Zulfalia Az Zahra, a 20-year communications student from the University Diponegoro (Undip)
She frequently witnessed her neighbours come back with injuries, mental breakdowns or not ever return. “The villagers never really take these issues seriously. I remember when my mother told me that this is because of the evil spirit of the sea or sawan laut. She said, ‘Let it be. Those who make it back will heal with time and there is nothing we can do about those whose lives are claimed by the sea’, told Annisa, quoted her mother.
As a result, families of fishers could only hopelessly accept these incidents as their fate. None of the families ever questioned the authorities, companies, or manning agencies about what had happened to their family members. She recalled: “Sadly, we just consider these misfortunes as a matter of course.”
Breaking the longstanding mythAnnisa’s belief and mindset changed when she joined the series of communications trainings conducted by the ILO’s 8.7 Accelerator Lab Multi Partner Fund regarding the risks of forced labour faced by fishers at sea. She was one of the 45 communications students from three selected universities located in the coastal areas. In addition to her university, two other universities participated - University of Brawijaya (Unibraw) Malang in East Java and Bandung Islamic University (Unisba) in West Java.
I am stunned and start to wonder what if the misfortune incidents I often witnessed in my home village are because of forced labour conditions endured at sea. The myth about the evil spirit of the sea has made the community accept them as faith and, as a result, no one is taking responsibility to tackle these misfortunes."
“When I learnt about the plight of the fishers during the interview sessions and about the recruitment mechanism during the visit to the manning agency, I became very curious about the working and living conditions of the fishers at sea,” she said.
During the training programme, she contacted her stepfather confirming what she had learnt and heard. She sent a long chat, reconfirming the new facts that she just learnt. The replies that she received for her questions: “Yes, it is true” or “Yes, it is what happens.”
“I am stunned and start to wonder what if the misfortune incidents I often witnessed in my home village are because of forced labour conditions endured at sea. The myth about the evil spirit of the sea has made the community accept them as fate and, as a result, no one is taking responsibility to tackle these misfortunes,” she remarked.
Annisa also had a conversation with her stepfather, telling her for the first time that after he sailed from the Benoa Port, Bali, to West Papua for six months, he decided to switch profession. He could not endure long working hours, hard working conditions and being apart from his family. In addition, fishers going missing at sea were common, and unlicensed manning agencies were commonplace.
The more she learnt about the indicators of forced labour and the labour rights of fishers, the more she was determined to raise awareness about forced labour at sea and to abolish the myth. As a journalism student with a dream to be a TV reporter or presenter, she has been disseminating information through articles and social media messages about the plight of Indonesian fishers.
Campaigning about the labour rights of fishersHer in-depth investigative article that she co-wrote with four journalism classmates colleagues on the long journey of Indonesian fishers to fight for their labour rights, for example, has been published in Mongabay-Indonesia, an Indonesian environmental news service, in August 2022. The article highlighted the struggle of fishers, the risks that they face, including the risk of forced labour, overlapping policies and hopes for better working conditions.
Anytime she comes back to her hometown during school breaks, she shares her knowledge with her surrounding community. She also maintains a good relationship with fishers and their association she encountered during the training and posts messages on her social media accounts.
Through the communications training programme, we will have a pool of knowledgeable talents. These students are the future writers, news presenters, advocators, and media leaders. Thus, we hope that they will be able to advocate for change through their work and continue to push this important issue."Muhamad Nour, National Coordinator of ILO’s 8.7 Accelerator Lab Programme in Indonesia
Muhamad Nour, National Coordinator of ILO’s 8.7 Accelerator Lab Programme in Indonesia, explained that the engagement of students and universities, particularly from communications faculties, is part of the programme’s strategy to raise awareness on the elimination of forced labour at sea and the protection of fishers’ labour rights.
“Through the communications training programme, we will have a pool of knowledgeable talents. These students are the future writers, news presenters, advocators, and media leaders. Thus, we hope that they will be able to advocate for change through their work and continue to push this important issue,” he said.
The 8.7 Accelerator Lab is an initiative of the ILO Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work Branch (FUNDAMENTALS). It was created to accelerate progress towards the eradication of forced labour and the elimination of child labour by optimizing the effectiveness of development cooperation interventions by embracing six acceleration factors that form the core of the programme.