Javan migrant workers' advocate wins rights award

Javan migrant workers’ advocate wins rights award


Migrant workers’ rights activist Anis Hidayah received the 2014 Yap Thiam Hien human rights award for being “the voice for millions of Indonesian migrant workers”, as described by the award committee.
One of the judges, lawyer and human rights activist Todung Mulya Lubis, said that Anis had shown unflinching devotion to the struggle for migrant workers’ rights.
“She gives her life to protecting migrant workers. Her heart, her mind and her physical body are there [to protect migrant workers],” he told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday.
Todung said that Anis, who is the executive director of the rights group Migrant Care, was so dedicated that her academics suffered.
“She wholeheartedly protects migrant workers, so much that her graduate work at Gadjah Mada University was being neglected,” he said. “This kind of total commitment to fighting for migrant workers’ rights is really rare in my opinion.”
Todung added that Anis’ achievements lobbying foreign governments to shield Indonesian migrant workers from capital punishment was another factor behind her winning the award.
He said this was the first time the award had been given to a migrant workers rights activist and that Anis beat out a large pool of figures working in fields such as education, politics and human rights.
Commenting on her victory, Anis said that it was a sign that the problems facing migrant workers had reached a critical level.
“I think my win shows that migrant workers’ problems are serious human rights issues. I am hoping this award can push the government to be more serious about tackling human rights violations among migrant workers, which are massive and also affect their families,” she told the Post on Tuesday.
Anis added that the government’s efforts to protect migrant workers were abysmal, as existing regulations tended focus on the economic benefits rather than concern for the welfare of the migrant workers.
“The mainstream view sees migrant workers through an economic perspective. The government sees them as an entity that brings money back into the country. Therefore, their rights are being pushed aside,” she said. “The biggest challenge is to ensure that all regulations concerning migrants focus on the human-rights dimension. As long as we don’t change the regulations, we’ll keep seeing the same problems over and over.”
When asked what made her so passionate about migrant workers’ issues, Anis recalled her childhood in Bojonegoro, East Java.
“Personally, none of my family members became migrant workers. But I was born in a village where the majority became migrant workers,” she said. “All of my neighbors were migrant workers, but they were still poor. Meanwhile, in another alley near my house, there was a huge and luxurious house owned by the owner of a labor-recruitment agency [PJTKI]. So there’s an  injustice.”
In 1998, the 37-year-old, along with a group of friends, established the East Java Women’s Solidarity movement, aimed at empowering migrant workers.
Anis eventually established Migrant Care in 2004 to provide legal assistance to migrant workers.
–    (Hans Nicholas Jong, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta)


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