From Worker to Advocate: Fitri Shares Her Transformation through Program AKSES

May 31, 2022
Category: Capacity Building | PowerUp Campaign

“Just like many other migrant domestic workers (MDWs), I had a dream to make a change for my family,” said Fitri, one of JWB’s mentee participants. His dad is the only family backbone, but since he passed away when she was little, it is hard to make ends meet. Signing up as an MDW seemed like the only way to solve my financial problems,” she recalled.

After being recruited, Fitri arrived in Singapore. She had chosen to work there because it was the most urban country she had heard of.

“But the dream didn’t go as planned. It was a horrible experience and I lived in constant fear every time I open my eyes,” Fitri said. “I got severely overcharged by the employment agency, leaving me with just SGD 10 (USD 7.18) per month.” She did not know what her agency did was considered a violation. Some of her fellow workers in Singapore even told her that her case would be too small to be considered.

Supported by a good friend, she eventually reported the case to the Indonesian Embassy, which helped her return home and settled her case. “From that moment, I felt like I gained the strength and the courage I longed to have,” Fitri said.

Now a wife and a mom, Fitri is also a member of SBMI, the Indonesian Migrant Workers Union. The organization aims to bolster the welfare and rights of Indonesian migrant workers through advocacy work, client support, education, and economic empowerment. Through SBMI, she became one of the mentees in JWB’s Program AKSES, its Indonesian mentorship programme.

Fitri was motivated to join the program based on her experience as a migrant worker with little awareness of her rights. She was also keen to begin learning how to conduct casework for others.

“I’ve come to sense that knowledge about MDW rights is the most important thing, yet the least concern to a lot of employment agencies that assist people to work abroad. I feel like I need to learn more so I can help other MDW protect themselves,” she said.

“Thanks to Program AKSES, I got to learn the basics of labour rights, such as appropriate accommodations for migrant workers and their rights to days off. I even obtained knowledge about how cross-border litigation works, and met other organizations who could help” she added.

Although she was empowered by what she had learned, Fitri felt that the programmes knowledge sharing activities were “the most challenging aspect in the mentorship programmed”. Each mentee conducted discussions in at least four local villages where they shared their learnings to their communities. The aim is to have more people aware of migrant workers’ rights and the possibility of cross-border litigation.

“I felt so scared that I wouldn’t perform as well as I expected. I was also afraid of being judged. I would just practise and practise again before the presentation day,” Fitri explained.

Her hard work definitely paid off. The headman in one of the villages was surprised with how well she presented. “It is an indescribable feeling to me,” Fitri said. Her growth as a speaker made her a dedicated advocate for MDW rights to her communities.

With her time as a mentee nearly complete, Fitri aims to grow into paralegal work, helping her fellow workers who have suffered abroad to seek justice, even after returning home.

By Coffee Pang, Public Relations Lead @JWB

The PowerUp Campaign features how JWB scales up its impact through building capacity with our allies. Our partners, including mentors, mentees, funders and frontline organization leaders, came together to share their experiences in our capacity building programs. We also look ahead to how we continue to scale up our impact to ensure that access to justice is as mobile as migrant workers.