JAKARTA, Indonesia - After experiencing sexual assault while working abroad as a domestic worker, Jejen Nurjanah has become  a social activist, supporting Indonesian migrant women seeking employment overseas. “Through our work with the Spotlight Initiative Safe and Fair programme, we hope to bring attention to the plight of migrant women, so they can live free from violence,” Ms. Nurjanah said.

Ms. Nurjanah — an Indonesian citizen — was one of an estimated 17 million women migrant domestic workers in Asia, who have left their country of origin to work abroad. Through a recruiting agency, she was able to secure domestic work in Dubai, UAE, sending money home to her family in Jakarta. “Back then, my husband did not have any regular income and we did not have enough resources to support our two children,” she said. “I saw migration as an opportunity to better provide for my family.” 

“I saw migration as an opportunity to better provide for my family.” - Jejen Nurjanah 

Her migration story proved to be more difficult and dangerous than she ever imagined. She lost her domestic job after sustaining a physical injury. With nowhere to go, she was forced to stay at her recruiting agent’s home where he attempted to sexually assault her. 

“I felt like I was walking into darkness,” Ms. Nurjanah said. “Recruitment agents were supposed to help us in times of trouble, but the one who hosted me tried to rape me.” She managed to escape the attack and later learned that nine other women had suffered a similar fate. 

Without information or support systems in place, women domestic migrant workers who experience violence are unable to access any available services or seek justice for their perpetrators. “I didn't even know where the Embassy of Indonesia was,” she Ms. Nurjanah said. 

A new chapter

Credit: UN Women/Pathuumporn Thongking

Upon her return to Indonesia, Ms. Nurjanah joined the Indonesia Union for Migrant Workers (SBMI) organization, which provides support services and information on issues related to violence against women for migrant women workers.

SBMI is one of the five Indonesian women’s organizations that collaborate with Spotlight Initiative’s Safe and Fair programme, created to advance the rights of women migrant workers in the ASEAN region. Since January, Safe and Fair and its partners have provided services to more than 4,300 Indonesian women migrant workers.

“I know from my experience that information is key for a safe migration.” - Jejen Nurjanah 

The Safe and Fair programme strengthens rights-based approaches and gender approaches to the governance of labor migration, addresses vulnerability to violence and trafficking, and supports the provision of essential services to women migrants who suffer violence and abuse across the ASEAN region.

By Younghwa Choi