Solidarity with Indonesian Domestic Workers



You may recall that at our Perth AGM earlier this year,  there was a call for solidarity  & the recognition of the plight of Indonesian, domestic workers. This came from from EdinWFI member, Maria Pakpahan. This is her update. She is one of the two voting  EdinWFI reps coming to the National Council meeting later this month. That could be your chance to chat to her and catch up!

At present, no legal framework exists for the protection (of the rights) of Indonesian domestic workers.  Problems concerning the violation of the rights of these workers are most commonly addressed through a ‘supply and demand’ framework.  

In the last ten years there have been many efforts and campaigns for a law to protect domestic workers in Indonesia, whilst it  is estimated there are between 6.5 million to 9 Indonesian migrant workers worldwide. Many work as domestic workers- migrant domestic workers in many countries. Indonesian workers who work overseas are estimated 69% - 75 %  women,  and most of them work in the domestic sector. Inside Indonesia itself the number of domestic workers is difficult to estimate.

However, it is a common practise for a middle class family to employ domestic workers including child domestic workers. The domestic workers ‘seem’ to be part of the family. However it is often a form of modern slavery as there is no clear job description with very long working hours, a very small salary and most of the time, no day/time off. There have been numbers of abuses suffered by domestic workers and reported by the local and national media in Indonesia. In the process of migration, both  internally and abroad, many  Indonesian women are particularly vulnerable from trafficking for sexual and labour exploitation.

There is an urgent need to have a law that values domestic works like other work; a law that treats and protects domestic workers from the practice of forced labour, domestic abuse and other violation of rights. On an international level in 2011 after long and concerted efforts from unions and NGOS working for & with domestic workers, International Labour Organisation (ILO) has come up with the …’Convention on Domestic Worker – ILO Convention no 189’…. concerning decent works for domestic workers. This ILO Convention no 189 is a benchmark for law and the protection of domestic workers.

This has been ongoing for more than 10 years and this year,  Spring 2015 more than 500 people committed to take part in a hunger strike to push for the passing of the law on domestic workers in Indonesia.

 There has been a movement from NGOs, domestic workers organisation, and some intellectuals to urge the Indonesian Parliament to have deliberation on draft Bills addressing issues relating to

This was my platform for calling for solidarity with  womens’ organisations and pressing the Indonesian Parliament to start to work and pass the law on the protection of domestic workers. This was the reason for my call for solidarity with Women for Independence at our AGM in Perth.

I was overwhelmed when the motion was passed by the assembly.  It is a timely solidarity, given the growing phenomenon of migrant work, the increasing incidence of abuse by employers, and the growing demands for action by trade unions, the media and networks of NGOs. The inadequacy of existing efforts to address the problems associated with migrant work – especially domestic workers- are important issues and certainly can be seen as everyones’ issue not just  ‘womens issues’.

Calling for solidarity is part of continuing efforts for successful realisation of the rights of domestic workers.


In sisterhood……………………………. Maria Pakpahan, Edinburgh June 2015


Maria Pakpahan is a feminist activist, writer and member of EdinWFI, & WFI, attending the National Council, June 2015, as a voting rep. from EdinWFI. Maria is co-founders of JALA ( National Network for Protection of Domestic Workers) – an national movement in Indonesia.

WFI National Council is free to attend and open to all interested women.  More information here. 

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