Eni Lestari, The Indonesian Spokeswoman for Migrant Workers

Eni Lestari, The Indonesian Spokeswoman for Migrant Workers

July 3, 2018 0 By vls

Eni Lestari Andayani Adi or commonly known as Eni Lestari, this petite and brown-skinned woman from Kediri, East Java was forced to migrate to Hong Kong as a migrant worker after graduating from high school because her family’s livelihood as a small trader in the market failed due to the monetary crisis at the time. She was forced to abandon her dream of continuing school to work, so she can help her family.


First experience as a migrant worker

When she first became a household assistant in Hong Kong in 1999, she did not know her rights as a migrant worker. Unpaid wages for months, no holidays, no communicating with other people, salaries cut by agents for reason of placement fee, and passports held by agents, made her feel trapped in a system of slavery and trafficking.
She managed to escape the situation and housed in the Bethune House, shelter run by Mission for Migrant Workers. From there she became aware of many cases of abuse and violence experienced by migrant workers. Then she began to study the cases and organized fellow workers who suffered a similar fate.


Photo: http://www.suarabmi.com/2016/08/eni-tkw-hong-kong-ini-akan-berpidato-di.html


Various organizations that she pioneered

Who would have thought this migrant worker who had worked for 17 years and changed employers 5 times in the end become the pioneer of various organizations advocating the rights of migrant workers. From 2000 to 2001 she served as chairman of the Association of Indonesian Migrant Workers in Hong Kong (ATKI – Hong Kong) where the organization focused on education, service, and social campaigns related to Indonesian labor migrants. In 2008 until now she served as chairman of the Indonesian Migrant Alliance (IMA). She also served as chairman of the Indonesian Migrant Workers Union Reject Overcharging in 2007 until now. She also became a member of the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Woman (GAATW). In addition, she is active as a speaker in various forums discussing the problems of migrant workers, such as: Campaign for People’s Goals for Sustainable Development (CPGSD) and Asian Migrant Coordinating Body (AMCB). Although her organization activities are fairly solid, she still works as household assistant. Holidays are her time to gather with friends of the organizations.

According to her family, since then until now Eni Lestari has never changed. She still returns to Indonesia once every year. This quiet woman who is known to be persistent and unyielding enough to actively organize during school and enjoy learning English with his father. But all this time she did not talk much about work or activities outside of work with her family.


Had a chance to voice her aspirations in United Nation Summit

Eni Lestari was the first Indonesian migrant worker who had a chance to address the United Nation Summit. In September 2016 in front of 32 world leaders, she spoke for 3 minutes voicing her anxiety about the condition of the world’s migrant workers, namely the lack of protection and exploitation. The 3 points she gave at the time discussed her experiences of being a migrant worker, her community’s aspirations, and what the United Nations could do to tackle the problems of migrant workers.

She felt a glimmer of hope as the United Nation allowed her to make a speech. She hopes the birth of a law that can truly protect and humanize the migrant workers. “Do not talk about us without involving us.” So far, she feels that the existing policy is not in favor of the migrant workers. She wants migrant workers around the world to get justice, service, and protection from the government. According to her, migrant workers solve their problems in systems that do not recognize their rights.


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