KEBONPEDES, Indonesia, April 18 (Thomson Reuters Foundation)
- I n Saepudin's village of Kebonpedes on Indonesia's Java
island, it is so common for women to leave to work as domestic
helpers abroad that one local neighbourhood is dubbed the
It has earned the nickname because 80 percent of the women
living there have taken up jobs as maids in Saudi Arabia, one of
the major destinations for Indonesian domestic helpers besides
Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan.
Indonesia has prohibited its citizens from travelling to the
Middle East to work as maids since 2015 after cases of abuse,
but traffickers still target women and continue to find ways
around the ban to meet soaring demand in the region.
Indonesian women had said they were beaten up, sexually
abused by their employers and often had their pay withheld.
Under a new pilot project, village heads like Saepudin in
rural Indonesia - where most of the women are recruited - have
been empowered to take on human traffickers in a bid to crack
down on the illegal practices.
"(The recruiters) make all sort of false promises. We keep
seeing cases of our women being abused, beaten up and not
getting paid," Saepudin, who like many Indonesians goes by one
name, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in Kebonpedes.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) project
involves 13 villages in the Sukabumi district. The area has been
frequently targeted by traffickers and saw 4,000 cases of maids
having been recruited to go to the Middle East last year.
The U.N. migration agency works with the villages to
formulate local laws to counter the illegal practice, and train
officials to prevent residents from falling prey to traffickers.
Heavy decentralisation of power in the Indonesian
archipelago has granted local authorities a degree of autonomy
in drawing up their own regulations.
A key part of the programme is educating village heads about
how to spot women who might become trafficking victims.
Indonesians who plan to work overseas need to obtain
permission from their village chiefs before travelling, and
Saepudin said he now questions the women about where they are
planning to go and who recruited them.
"If they fail to give a satisfactory answer or show the
necessary documents, I will refuse to sign the consent letter,"
Some of the laws that villages have introduced to combat
traffickers include making recruiters report to local chiefs,
and making it illegal to lie to women when they are being
persuaded to go abroad.
"Local leaders are often unaware of the prevalence of human
trafficking in their areas," IOM Indonesia spokesman Paul Dillon
"Now they're coming around to understand how destabilising
it can be for an entire community when its young women and men
return broken from their experiences overseas."
Officials said they were hopeful the project would help
raise awareness of the dangers of human trafficking, and
encourage more villagers to come forward to report the crime.
"Trafficking in persons often begins with unscrupulous
recruitment," Sujatmiko, a senior official from the Coordinating
Ministry of Human Development and Cultural Affairs, said in a
The initiative is expected to be introduced in the East Nusa
Tenggara province later this year, one of the major areas for
Maids make up more than a third of the 6 million Indonesians
(Reporting by Beh Lih Yi @behlihyi, Editing by Ros Russell;
Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm
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