In 2020, we were planning to increase our outreach efforts and travel across Java and Lampung, but that plan could not come to fruition once the COVID-19 pandemic became widespread. In-person meetings are important in Indonesian culture but that quickly changed as our team had to work remotely.
When we found out that we needed to change our working approach, we tried to optimise this opportunity by conducting online training. It was not easy, as we needed to make sure the sessions were interactive and engaging and that we could still facilitate FGD sessions where the participants could gather to brainstorm and discuss a case study. We avoided one-way sessions as much as possible and provided more opportunities for the participants to be involved in the discussions.
We are documenting good practices and tweaking our methods to suit the current online situation. We are optimising online-based engagement to make our activities more inclusive and reach more areas. For example, we usually have centralised trainings in one village, but now we can hold one training and invite people from multiple cities, something that wasn’t feasible before. We are also working to raise awareness through online public discussions and social media. The pandemic has pushed us to be more creative in engaging with our stakeholders and the general public.
As we have tried to reach more people through different strategies, the interest in JWB’s work has increased. Previously, we would have never imagined that we could hold a national-level public discussion which would engage people from different areas, but under these circumstances, we were able to do so virtually. Likewise, our ‘Believe’ communications campaign and media launch, reached an impressive number of people. It is really quite surprising what can happen when we try to think outside of the box and put ourselves out there. I’m glad the response has been positive in 2020.
I think the biggest challenge has been progressing our casework because travel is really off the table. We need to find creative ways to facilitate client cases, ensure workers are safe and that the case still moves forward without too much trouble. From evidence collection to affidavits, it’s been challenging to navigate the process. We’re glad that at this time, our committed clients, reliable partners, and helpful stakeholders are able to support the process.
COVID-19 has definitely pushed our team to work outside our comfort zone and think creatively about how we’re holding events. A time-out is needed to regroup and examine the opportunities presented to us during this time. At first, we saw COVID-19 as a barrier for us to engage with our stakeholders, and of course, we hope we will be able to meet them in person again, but now we’re seizing the opportunity to think of this as a way to overcome the distance and open our doors to more partners and stakeholders from all over Indonesia. The importance of networking is one of the key takeaways from our activities during COVID-19.
Internally, communication has been key for us to coordinate with the team, tackle issues, and so on. It’s quite funny because I have never met Afin, Vivi, and the fellows we have in 2020, in person, but I feel so close to them because of how often we talk with each other. Externally, COVID-19 has been hard, but it’s quite eye-opening and inspiring to see how people come together to support the same cause. One of the things that surprised us is how many organisations and people are keen to work together with us on cases and activities.
JWB, like everybody else, will have to adapt to COVID-19 and how it will affect our work. In 2020, we were still in the trial-and-error mode, where we wanted to check and see how we could navigate the year… but in the future, we’d have to think about it more strategically. We expect an influx of cases once migrant workers can return home. At the moment, we’ve been receiving many inquiries and case consultations through our social media; therefore, internally, we’ll have to increase our capacity for when new cases come in.
The pandemic will lead to future case complications When this is all over, an adjustment is needed to streamline a safer migration process. Raising awareness now is all the more necessary because we need to ensure migrant workers know their rights before they go abroad, and when they’re working under pandemic circumstances.
Eva Maria Putri Salsabila, “Salsa”, is the Head of Office for JWB in Indonesia. She leads the Indonesia team in developing its case work and strategic legal research, as well as outreach and capacity building. Salsa graduated from the University of Indonesia with a Bachelor’s degree in Law. She has authored over 10 books, and her passion for writing and social issues spurred her interest in research. She has conducted research on migrant workers, child marriage, sexual violence, and legal aid, and has been invited by the University of Leiden to present her research based on her undergraduate thesis about access of information for women migrant workers during the pre-departure phase. During her time in university, she spent three years in the student executive board, conducting advocacy on human rights and social-political issues in Indonesia. In an effort to make her university a safer place, Salsa co-founded a crisis centre and hotline for sexual violence in her university.