Thursday, November 18, 2010

Sumiati and her friends

Nowadays it's not easy finding a maid in Jakarta, sometimes you have to pay a lot for getting them from the supplier and it is not guarantee that the maid is going to stay with you. It is because most prefer going abroad and work there for a much bigger salary.

One of the destinations is Saudi Arabia. They say the money is good. The down side is they work a very long hours, most of the time they are not allowed to sleep before the employers go to bed, which can be in the wee hour. If you are unlucky, you ended up impregnanted by your employer or a member of their family, or getting beat up just like Sumiati.

As it is a big business with a lot of stakes, job seekers begged and borrowed money to pay the agent a lot of money to be send abroad. Sometimes while they are waiting for their departure, they sleep with people from the agency. I heard about this from my neighbors because there are plenty of such boarding houses for them near my place. A good agency teaches these people some basic foreign language, how to work in foreign places, basic things like that. But I guess, if one pays a lot more than the rest, they can go abroad without those knowledge, as in the case of Sumiati.

In Singapore they need to pass an exam to be able to work as a maid over there. I heard this from this girl I met last year at the airport, she was sent back because she failed the test twice and nobody picked her up. I heard from an ex foreign worker I met in NL that normally an agency keep her first 9 months' salary as a payment for the training, administration fee, immigration fee, and her flight. When she worked in Singapore, after 3 months the employer turned her over to the agency, and since she couldnt get a new employer afterwards, for months she stayed in a boarding house own by the agency in Singapore and was only fed porridge once a day until they sent her back to Indonesia. She later on went to work in Hongkong and Japan where she had lovely families to work for, before working for an ambassador family in NL. Her sisters at that time were in Japan and Hongkong also working as maids.

I cant blame them for wanting to work abroad, but I wish the government give them more protection and standing up for them abroad. It's been said that Indonesia is going to stop sending its workers to Saudi Arabia because there have been plenty of documented abuse on foreign workers in that land. I think it's about time the government acts this way.

When I was in Lampung, I visited many villages where a lot of their women are abroad working as a maid. They send home money to renovate their house, send their kids to school, or buy a plot of land. I also noticed that the men were just living off what their wives send. Some even have the audacity to take another wife or girlfriend because their wives are away too long!

Currently at Soekarno Hatta they separate the terminal for foreign workers from the 'normal travelers'. I heard stories how some low lives would ask them for money one way or another. The seasoned workers would send most of their money via bank to anticipate these practices.

These women want to improve their lives, but so many people around them act like vultures trying to get something out of them. I hope things improve soon enough for them.


colson said...

Poverty, lack of employment and migrant workers go together. As a cultural tradition of women as second rate citizens and a steep power gradient go together with abuse and exploitation of women especially. Though the problem is worldwide, the Arab peninsula has a very unfavourable image in these matters.

But you are right - the vultures at home and the criminal acts by employers abroad should be dealt with. Since the maids bring in huge amounts of money, own governments usually are reluctant to do so unfortunately.

triesti said...

I just read an article about our members of parliament behavior in Dubai with regard to our Foreign Workers difficulty. How could we expect that foreign governments protect and help our workers if our own members of parliament were washing their own hands. Disgraceful.