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All for the sake of the family

Thousands of Indonesian children at risk of exploitation by doing domestic work to help support poor families

All for the sake of the family

A young domestic worker washes clothes after having cooked and cleaned her employer's house. There are an estimated 85,000 children employed as domestic workers in Indonesia, according to the ILO. (ucanews.com photo)

Konradus Epa, Jakarta
Indonesia

September 6, 2017

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Ita Susiwati, 15, not her real name, came to Jakarta last year, knowing little about Indonesia's capital city.

But she had wanted to work there since a neighbor spoke of her lucrative income as a domestic worker.

Susiwati comes from a village in Brebes, Central Java.

And she was impressed upon being told the neighbor earned US$300 a month.

After receiving parental permission, she took a job with a family in West Jakarta; cooking, cleaning the house and washing clothes.

However, Susiwati later realized she had been misled. After working for two months, she earned only US$40. She now receives US$50 a month.

Despite the low salary, Susiwati told ucanews.com that she would stay in the job.

However, she complained about being scolded over her cooking and prohibited from communicating with her parents.

One of four children, she was not allowed by her employer to go out on her own.

Another girl, Anisyah, 16, works as a maid for a family in central Jakarta.

She studies in a senior high school, but works after school as a part-time maid for a local family, earning US$20 to buy books and snacks.

"I want to work and it doesn't disturb my studies," Anisyah told ucanews.com. 

She first became a domestic worker when she was aged 13 in order to help her family. Her mother was sick with diabetes and her father had only a small income as a motor taxi driver.

Anisyah said she only works two hours a day and has never experienced violence or abuse.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) said on Aug 10, that there are four million domestic workers in Indonesia, including about 85,000 under the age of 18.

An employer, Winda, 48, said she faced a dilemma in hiring children to work in her home.

"We don't want to hire children, but their parents urged us to accept them," she said, adding that they are from poor families.

 

Criticize government

Father Paulus Christian Siswantoko, executive secretary of the Indonesian bishops' Commission for Justice and Peace, has called on the Indonesian government to protect child domestic workers.

The ILO figures showed that the government was failing to protect children prone to human trafficking, Father Siswantoko told ucanews.com.

Indonesia has ratified ILO Convention 138 on the abolition of child labor, however, parliament has yet to pass a domestic worker bill to enhance child protection.

The Indonesian Manpower Ministry cooperated with the ILO to establish a roadmap to free Indonesia of child workers by 2022. 

Father Siswantoko called on the government to eradicate poverty, which has been a major cause of children entering the work force.

Lita Anggraini, chairwoman of the National Network for Domestic Workers, said children performed a wide variety of domestic tasks.

"Domestic workers constituted a complex issue subject to racial and gender bias, slavery and human trafficking," she said. 

 

Exploitation

Dominican Sister Natalia Sumarni from the Secretariat of Gender and Women Empowerment of the Indonesian bishops' conference, said it was difficult to monitor conditions of children working behind closed doors.

Arist Merdeka Sirait, chairman of National Human Rights Commission for Child Protection, did not accept the argument that children working was justified as it lifted the incomes of poor families.

"Children have the right to play and study and must be protected," he said.

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