Home Bookstore The Word for World is Work: The Life of Women – A Sample Chapter

The Word for World is Work: The Life of Women – A Sample Chapter

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One month before Putri finished her two-year contract, she sent home all her money to her husband. When her husband received her money, he wrote her a letter. In his letter to her, he wrote: “I received your money in full and thank you for the money you sent. I sent your daughter to your parents’ house for them to take care of her. I have divorced you and have remarried to another woman”. Putri told me that she was so broken when she read that letter that she wanted to kill herself. Her money was gone, her husband was gone, and everything else was gone. The house renovation that she had paid for was gone. Psychological damage was apparent.

Fortunately, her employer was very good to her. He reinstated her work permit, gave her advice, and comforted her. He told Putri that what she had lost she could earn back. For her, it was important to think of her daughter—since Putri was the only source of comfort for her daughter. Putri took the advice of her employer and continued to work for this family. She was thankful to her employer and family members who were good to her. She told me that she was going back for holiday and would return to work for her employer—as she had renewed her contract now that she had to support her daughter. This abused woman told me that the thick-skinned ex-husband may be at the airport too. True enough he was there, and she told me later that she would not have anything to do with him and did not want to be cheated by him again. Putri would not part with any money much as her employer had advised. I asked her how her ex-husband knew she was going back, and she told me that they lived in the same village, He definitely would come to know about her return. And he later would discover her strength and resolve. Putri was not going to allow herself to be abused anymore.

Inhumanity and Obligations

I worked with a woman I will call Jari. She was deployed by me to work with one employer for two years. The employer did not renew Jari’s contract of two years—but allowed her to be transferred—as she did not want to go back for the holiday. I found another employer for Jari. She worked with this family for more than 20 years. Jari was a good employee: honest and trustworthy. She had a great working attitude. I remembered training her in Jakarta before deploying her in Singapore. This was the first two years of my work as an employment agent. I always give good advice to the women under my care. I am teaching them not to get cheated by men here in Singapore or back in their hometown.

Jari had taken my advice and remembered to be careful in her relationships with men. She always contacted me when she was working here in Singapore, before she left home for good. Jari shared with me that her parents were getting worried about her failure to be married. Her parents contracted with a matchmaker who identified a man for Jari to marry. However, the matchmaker did not disclose all the truth about this man to her parents. Jari went home for holiday every two years of her contract, and her employer gave her one-month home-leave. She went to check on the man’s background. She found that he was a divorcee and had three young children.

Jari reminded her father and mother that she had renovated their house, provided them with comfort, and helped her siblings finish their educations. She had provided them with whatever was needed. Jari had bought land for herself and had built her own house. She told her parents that if they thought this divorcee was good for them, then they could marry him themselves! She would not marry him. Jari came to visit me so that she could share this story and thank me for teaching her. Jari was becoming wise about the ways of the world. She would not get cheated by anyone. However, a few years ago, she shared that she had found a man whom she would marry. He was the right man for Jari. This man owned a carpenter business and was still single. Just before she returned home for good, Jari told me that she had saved enough, and would settle down and have children with this man. I was very happy for her and wished her well.

Recently, I was introduced to another Indonesian woman, whom I will call Nimala. She had worked for her employer for six years. This employer did not allow her to return home to visit her Indonesian family. Nimala shared that her employer had affixed CCTV (video surveillance system) all round her house and would check the CCTV to see if Nimala was does her work. Nimala was not allowed to rest. When she had finished her work within the house, she had to work in the garden to weed, cut the grass and water the plants.

Nimala was given only one day off a month. She was paid in cash for the other three days of the month which she was supposed to have off. MOM regulations are flexible. It was mandated at the time that FDW women were given every Sunday off, but the employer could negotiate with these women for one or two Sundays off, with the remainder off-days being compensated (usually with cash). It seems that Nimala didn’t really have much control over this matter. Her off day was never established and was always at the will and fancy of her employer. As we see in the stories told by many of the women we have studied, ultimate control is inevitably in the hands (and heart) of those doing the employment.

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