Journeys out of the Ordinary | Yati

Date: Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Photo: UN Women/M R Hasan

Before I migrated, my husband gambled, and we were in debt because of it. People kept saying that I could earn a lot by working abroad, and they encouraged me to go. I thought maybe it could solve all our problems. My daughter was four at the time.

I worked as a domestic worker in Malaysia, imagining that I would earn a good sum of money and build a house back home. I thought, “I'll have a good employer who will treat me well”.

The family that I eventually worked for had two small children aged 4 and 5, similar to my daughter back home. But the woman was very nasty to me. She didn’t like my cooking and would throw away the food that I prepared. She yelled at me and insulted me all the time too. I wasn’t allowed to leave the house, and when they went out they would lock me in.

I couldn’t help thinking about my own daughter and how I wasn't there to take care of her. It was very painful. My husband had treated me badly, and here I was working far away from my daughter and suffering to take care of our family. And I had arranged to have my salary sent to my mother, not my husband. But my employer sent my salary to the agent, and didn’t even send all of it. Ultimately I was not paid for six of the nine months that I worked.

It’s incredibly hard to live in someone else’s home, cook for them, work hard and look after their children, yet be treated so badly. Finally I couldn’t take the emotional abuse any longer and asked to go home. But the employers said no. However, the neighbour was kind to me and one day I asked her for help. She agreed to help me, and since my employer had taken my phone away, the neighbour contacted my family for me. She also gave me some money for a taxi to the Immigration office.

When I got back to Indonesia, I got connected to the migrant workers’ association and they helped me so much. They empowered me and other workers and taught us skills. Now I'm helping others to learn job skills, and in addition to economic empowerment, we share experiences, stories and lessons. The emotional support really helps me to feel stronger.

My message to other women migrant workers is: “As women, we don't need to be dependent on our husbands, and through migration we can earn our own money. It is important to follow the government's advice and policy when migrating.”