First-person perspectives on the world of work
Photo: ILO/OIT I Gede Setiyana
Violence and harassment at work

I empower migrant domestic workers by sharing my experiences

As a migrant domestic worker, I was abused by my employers. Now, I raise awareness so that other Indonesian women have the knowledge to protect themselves from exploitation. No woman should have to endure violence at the hands of their employers, like I did.

My name is Win Faidah and I am from East Lampung in Indonesia. I am 40 years old, and I am married and have two children. Since graduating from middle school, I have been a domestic worker.

After I got married, my husband's relative suggested that I should go abroad as a migrant worker. He told me that I could earn a lot of money and have a good life. At the time my mother strongly disapproved and prohibited me from going.

However, when I was pregnant with my first child, the relative came back to our house, encouraging me to work overseas. This time I accepted so I could provide for our family's needs.

After three months training in Jakarta I was flown to an Asian country to work. When I left Indonesia, my baby was nine months old.

Win Faidah looks at the camera and holds up newspaper clippings about her experience. The headline on one of them reads: “Maid forced into sex romp”. She stands in front of a brick wall.

I still cannot stop the tears when I relive the devastating memory of my experience as a migrant domestic worker. (2024)

© ILO/OIT I Gede Setiyana

On arriving abroad we were given documents about how to treat employers, clean the house and other tasks. It felt like I was taking a school exam. A week later we discovered that none of us had passed the test, so we would return to Indonesia.

Back in Indonesia we stayed in a remote house in the woods. We weren't allowed out and we couldn't contact our families.

I pleaded with the agent to send me home. But he refused. He told me that we would be taken to another Asian country to work. He said: "If you want to go home you need to pay the company IDR20 million (US$1200).” I had no choice but to work.

Win Faidah sits on the floor between two other women. Together they look at newspaper articles about her experience.

I regularly share my experience as a migrant worker and advocate in the village and even in areas like Malang in East Java. I want to inspire other Indonesian women. (2024)

© ILO/OIT I Gede Setiyana

In the new country I was taken to a three-story house to work. My main duties included taking care of the house and my employer’s elderly mother.

For the first two months the working conditions were tolerable. But they soon got worse. I was rarely given food and the employer's mother started beating me.

One day, I learnt that the neighbour’s domestic worker was from the same province of Indonesia as me. She warned me to be careful and told me that the previous domestic worker had run away.

She said: "I will help you to escape. I will find you a good employer. Otherwise, you could die here."

No day passed without torture. My eyes were blindfolded, my back and chest were burnt with an iron.... I thought I was going to die, and I was ready to die.

Win FaidahFormer migrant domestic worker

Three months later I escaped from the house. I vividly remember that night. I packed my belongings and around midnight I climbed over the back gate to where my neighbour’s domestic worker was waiting to take me to my new employer.

My new employer was a stay-at-home mother with four children. Her husband was a contractor. They lived in a three-bedroom flat. I didn't have my own room but I didn't mind as they treated me well.

However, after a few months, my employer's husband began flirting. I felt uncomfortable and scared. I told my employer that I missed my daughter and wanted to go home, but she refused.

Then one night, while I slept in the kitchen, I felt hands touching my body. I woke up and saw my employer's husband. The next day, I told my employer about the incident. But her husband denied the allegation and instead accused me of flirting with him.

From then on my days became a nightmare.

Win Faidah shows several deep scars on her legs from the abuse of her former employers. She sits on a wooden stool.

When my employers abused me I could not contact anyone as I did not have a mobile phone. I tried to heal by myself. My employers never took me to a doctor. (2024)

© ILO/OIT I Gede Setiyana

After that no day passed without torture.

My eyes were blindfolded, my back and chest were burnt with an iron. My head was hit by a hammer and my hair was shaved. My fingernails were cut with pliers, and I was splashed with boiled water. I was beaten and punched.

During this time my employer's husband sexually assaulted me four times. I thought I was going to die, and I was ready to die. 

I tried to tend to my wounds alone with products such as toothpaste. But when my body began to deteriorate and the wounds started to smell, my employers wrapped me in a blanket and threw me in an isolated area near a palm oil plantation.

Win Faidah sits with her son in the Migrant Worker Resource Centre. She is talking to three other women seated around a table.

With the support of Yunita Rohani from the Migrant Worker Trade Union, I followed training programmes at the Migrant Worker Resource Centre (MRC) in East Lampung, under the ILO’s Safe and Fair programme. (2024)

© ILO/OIT I Gede Setiyana

I was rescued by a local citizen who called the police. For a month, I was treated in hospital and then I stayed in a shelter during the trial. It was long and hard, but I was relieved that my employers were sentenced to eight years in prison. The agent in Indonesia was also sentenced to three years in prison.

With the help of the Indonesian Embassy, I could finally return home. When I arrived, my mother shed tears saying that she could feel my pain. My husband welcomed me with open arms, despite the assault that I had experienced.

Unlike my family, my community treated me like an outcast. They mocked me about the assault, saying that it was my fault. I felt devastated and ashamed.

I was blessed to meet Yunita Rohani, a field officer at the Migrant Worker Resource Centre (MRC) from the Indonesia Migrant Worker Union (SBMI). With her support I joined training programmes of the MRC in East Lampung district, as part of the ILO’s Safe and Fair programme.

I learnt about gender equality, the prevention of gender-based violence for women migrant workers, women's leadership, and trade unions.

Most importantly, I learnt to voice my aspirations and make myself heard.

I used to wonder why I didn't die after all that I had endured. Now, I realize that I survived so I could tell my story and empower other women migrants.

Win FaidahFormer migrant domestic worker

The training helped me become stronger. I now actively share my experiences at trade union meetings and at the MRC at local and national level. I want to inspire Indonesian women to work abroad through a legal process. They must prepare themselves with adequate knowledge so that they can speak up if they face problems.

Nowadays, I help my sister by taking care of her toddler. Both of my younger sisters are migrant workers. I'm happy they have good experiences and can support their families. I hope no other women migrant workers endure what I experienced.

I used to wonder why I didn't die after all that I had endured. Now, I realize that I survived so I could tell my story and empower other women migrant workers.

I hope that the public never forgets our contribution to the national economy as migrant workers. We risk our lives to work abroad.

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