From Legal Fellow to Head of Office, Indonesia: Putri Salsa Reflects her Journey of Growth with JWB

September 7, 2023
Category: Capacity Building | Communications | People Profile

In light of JWB’s 10th Anniversary, we would like to celebrate our team members, who have contributed so much to our mission tirelessly. Many started as a volunteer, eventually becoming full-time staff to pursue a career in non-profit work. Salsa is one of them.

We sometimes cross paths with people whose presence leaves us in awe, with their infectious larger-than-life personalities that energize us. These are the ordinary individuals who have realized extraordinary feats. This summer, I had the privilege of meeting one such person—Eva Maria Putri Salsabila, JWB’s Head of Office in Indonesia.

Over Zoom, Salsa shared her journey, hopes, and aspirations as JWB embarks on its next decade of serving justice, without borders. The 900km separation also posed no barrier to us connecting over our shared love for the written word.

When the Law is More Than Just a Means to an End

Salsa joined JWB in 2017 as a fresh-faced Legal Fellow while studying law at university. After completing her Fellowship, she stayed on as a Legal Officer until December 2020. Now in her sixth year with the organization, Salsa describes her encounter with JWB as fate-like.

Salsa hails from a family of authors and writers. Growing up in a literary environment meant that books shaped Salsa’s childhood and dream of one day becoming a writer herself.  So far, Salsa has published 13 children’s books in Bahasa Indonesia. 

However, it was a conversation she had with her parents that steered her into the pursuit of law as a career. Salsa was initially unsure whether law was the right path for her. She recalled having no interest in anything apart from helping others. That conviction had seeded Salsa’s extensive involvement in non-profits. What hit home was a remark by her mother emphasizing that by becoming a lawyer Salsa could help those who did not know or understand the law and communities underserved by the law. 

From the get-go, work at JWB opened Salsa’s eyes to using civil litigation to increase access to justice across countries. She found the creative ways of utilizing private law for migrant workers who suffered injustice in their employment abroad profoundly impactful. So when the opportunity to lead JWB’s Indonesian Office arose in January 2021, Salsa knew she had to seize it. Beyond professional advancement, Salsa thought of it as a chance for her to enable greater change. 

Forging Relationships Across Borders

A trait unique to JWB is its cross-border work. its clients could be from any of the four jurisdictions it currently serves and even if they have left their country of employment, the JWB team assists them in continuing their journey to justice. While this presents challenges, there are equally rewarding moments.

In her early days at JWB, Salsa wondered how staff from various walks of life, with different objectives, would fit together. But she quickly noticed the unifying power of compassion and a common goal. Today, Salsa still finds it fascinating to work alongside people who care deeply about migrant workers, dedicating themselves to JWB’s cause of making justice across borders a reality, despite their vastly distinct backgrounds.

The relationships forged through her work were priceless for Salsa. It warms Salsa’s heart to know that the connections between team members and clients do not end after cases conclude. She has seen former clients with successful stories introduce JWB to friends in need, and graduated mentees of JWB’s mentorship programme go on to work with frontline organizations on cross-border casework. Learning of the lasting effect of JWB’s work and its ripple effect on the migrant worker community has allowed Salsa to understand that every contribution, no matter how small, is fundamental to the big picture. 

Salsa also spoke fondly of the friendships she made through JWB. She makes it a point to keep in touch with colleagues even after they have moved on to other opportunities. Organisation-wide, retreats are a way for the regional team to catch up and bond with one another. Salsa was delighted to reconnect with some old and new faces at JWB’s recent retreat in Jakarta following almost three years of virtual meetings and COVID-shuttered in-person interactions. 

“…I think that is really what makes JWB so special,” Salsa said, with an unmistakable sparkle in her eyes. 

Looking Back to Move Forward

Reflecting on 6 years with JWB, Salsa thinks of it as nothing short of a dynamic and transformative experience. She remembers the gracious mentorship and guidance extended to her and she now does her best to create a sandbox for her team and mentees to experiment and grow in. She empowers her teammates to raise their hands for opportunities they are keen on because she believes there is enough room for everyone to develop.

Speaking to her through the screen, I could sense Salsa’s excitement over JWB’s subsequent chapters. In an organization where everyone constantly evaluates past efforts to do things better, Salsa envisions staying on with JWB for many more years to come. 

“Thank you to our partners and stakeholders for your collaboration. You have been the driving force behind JWB’s cause, and we look forward to journeying with you by our side!”

As a woman in leadership, Salsa struck me as a role model who exemplifies the change she wishes to see. And that makes Salsa’s commitment to the migrant worker community ever so compelling. 

By PR Volunteer, Denise Phua