Stories

Experience brings important lessons learned for promoting safe migration

18 December 2018
Penulis: Puji Maharani

Wherever Husnul Hidayah goes, she always brings the booklet containing the Central Lombok Regency Bylaw No.1/2017 and the Gemel Village Regulation No.11/2017 with her. These two regulations are important tools for Husnul as they help her to explain the importance of safe migration for migrant workers. Husnul has a sense of ownership of these regulations, because she was actively involved in the advocacy process that led to the adoption of the Village Regulation.

Husnul is a former migrant worker from Gemel village, Jonggat district of Central Lombok Regency. Bad experiences when working abroad as a migrant domestic worker in Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi led Husnul to become active in the Gemel United Group (Kelompok Gemel Bersatu) in 2016. Kelompok Gemel Bersatu is an organization of former migrant workers and their families that was created by Perkumpulan Panca Karsa (PPK) Mataram. PPK Mataram is a subpartner of Migrant CARE, a MAMPU Partner for increasing protections for migrant workers.

Since joining Kelompok Gemel Bersatu, Husnul has gained a range of new knowledge from taking part in various activities. This includes disseminating information on safe migration to potential women migrant workers and taking part in paralegal training. At the beginning of her involvement, Husnul would shake with nerves when speaking in front of an audience. Now she is frequently invited to speak as a resource person at events discussing migrant workers in Lombok.

Husnul is tireless when it comes to spreading information about safe migration, and she is aware that changing people’s perceptions is not a simple task. One of Husnul’s neighbours insisted on migrating to work in Saudi Arabia. Her neighbour remained determined even after Husnul had explained that Saudi Arabia has been under moratorium as a destination for Indonesian migrant workers since 2011, and thus migrant workers who depart to work there do so without proper documentation and protections.

Husnul explained that “When [my neighbour] was moved to the agent’s camp she was transported in a cramped car and had to hide away. The latest news is that [the migrant workers] are still at the camp, and haven’t yet been sent to their employers.” However, Husnul stayed in touch with her neighbour and reminded her that “If there is an emergency, contact me immediately, I will seek help from our friends at DESBUMI and PPK.”

The Village that Cares for Migrant Workers (DESBUMI) model started by MAMPU Partner Migrant CARE, is a local initiative that works to increase protections for migrant workers before, during and after migration. DESBUMI which is under the village government, promotes cooperation between civil society actors such as PPK, village cadres, former migrant workers, village level law enforcement (BABINSA), and other village stakeholders.

“Before I was a shut-off person and rarely mingled with my neighbours. After receiving training [from PPK], I gained the desire to voice my opinions at group meetings. Through the training I came to know about the safe migration system. Since then, I’ve wanted to make sure that other people will not have the same bad experiences as me,” said Husnul.

 

Learning from Experience

When she left her home village for the first time in 1999 to travel to Saudi Arabia, Husnul was far from aware of the need for safe migration. She decided to work abroad to save money to pay for her university tuition fee. Previously Husnul dreamed of studying at the Brawijaya University, Malang.  However, after being accepted to study there, she was forced to abandon her dream because her parents could not provide the money needed for her travel or living costs.

“I saw the success stories of other people who were able to continue their studies and obtain a university degree, even though they had a late start. I wanted to be like that,” told Husnul.

After two years and seven months working abroad, the money that she had sent back home to save had dried up, used to pay for her family’s living costs. Since then, Husnul went back and forth working abroad as a domestic worker, first deploying back to Saudi Arabia and then to Abu Dhabi.

Unfortunately, while working as a migrant worker, Husnul was faced with a number of bad experiences. Besides experiencing physical violence from her employer in Saudi Arabia, which led her to escape and flee back to Indonesia, Husnul was also neglected by her employer in Abu Dhabi when she was chronically ill for three months. After deciding to stop working as a migrant worker, Husnul became passionate about the need to provide information about safe migration to potential migrant workers and their families.  

“I am never going to stop giving voice to the truth,” affirmed Husnul, aware of the challenges involved in raising community awareness regarding safe migration. “At the very least, the women who migrate abroad, are more prepared to face whatever happens after they have obtained information from me,” she added.