In February 2016, a documentary film that centers on the case of an Indonesian domestic worker’s harrowing abuse in the hands of her employer in Hong Kong was released. Erwiana: Justice for All, directed by Gabriel Ordaz, narrates the life and struggles of Erwiana Sulistyaningsih, as she goes through a legal battle that became a platform for migrant women activists and human rights advocates in Hong Kong to address the issue of exploitation of Southeast Asian women working in foreign households.
I have been following her case as it became central to my PhD dissertation, particularly in a chapter that talks about the political dimension of suffering, and how narratives of abuse and exploitation shape the problematic discourses of labor migration in Southeast Asia. I have used Erwiana’s case as a springboard to discuss some of the short stories written and published by Indonesian domestic workers in Hong Kong and Singapore. Eni Lestari, one of the Indonesian migrant women activists who has helped in making this documentary, ask me to translate the full transcript of the film from English to Bahasa Indonesia for subtitles so that they can screen it to a larger Indonesian audience . You can see more information about the film and its launching in Hong Kong here and here. Below is an excerpt of my translation.
My name is Erwiana Sulistianingsih
I come from East Java Indonesia
And I am 24 years old
I never thought the torture I endured
could happen to me, or to any other
The first time I went there
There was nothing for me back home
I wanted to go to Hong Kong
I wanted to go to school.
But my parents didn’t have money
so I wanted to go to Hong Kong
to get more money for college
It was difficult
my parents did not want me to leave
but they finally agreed to let me go
That was because they didn’t have
money to pay my tuition fee
That’s how I got myself to Hong Kong
because I didn’t have money to pay the tuition fee
The first time I came to Hong Kong
I was happy because….
I didn’t know anything about my employer
The agent took me first
I lived in a boarding house for three days
until my employer picked me up
When I entered her house…
it was normal, nothing suspicious.
I couldn’t stand because I was sleep deprived
Namaku Erwiana Sulistianingsih
Aku berasal dari Jawa Timur Indonesia
Dan aku berumur 24 tahun
Aku tak pernah mengira penyiksaan yang aku alami
bisa terjadi pada aku, atau apapun lainnya
Pertama kali aku pergi ke sana
Ada apa-apa bagi aku kembali ke rumah
Aku ingin pergi ke Hong Kong
Aku ingin pergi ke sekolah.
Tapi orang tuaku tidak punya uang
jadi aku ingin pergi ke Hong Kong
untuk mendapatkan lebih banyak uang untuk kuliah
Hal itu sulit
orang tuaku tidak ingin aku pergi
tapi mereka akhirnya setuju untuk membiarkan aku pergi
Itu karena mereka tidak punya uang
untuk membayar uang kuliahku
Begitulah cara aku mendapatkan diriku ke Hong Kong
karena aku tidak punya uang untuk membayar biaya kuliah
Pertama kali aku datang ke Hong Kong
Aku senang karena ….
Aku tidak tahu apa-apa tentang majikanku
Aku dibawa ke agenku pertama
Aku tinggal di asrama selama tiga hari
sampai majikanku menjemputku
Ketika aku memasuki rumahnya…
Itu normal, tidak ada yang mencurigakan.
Aku tidak tahan karena aku kurang tidur