Jakarta Festival Highlights Plight of Women Homeworkers

Photos of women homeworkers printed on pillows form part of an exhibition during the Women Homeworkers Festival at Jakarta Creative Hub on Dec. 22-23. (JG Photo/Dhania Sarahtika)

By : Dhania Sarahtika | on 7:12 PM December 27, 2017
Category : Life & Style, Community

Jakarta. The Trade Union Rights Center, or TURC, held its inaugural Women Homeworkers Festival on Friday and Saturday, Dec. 22-23, at Jakarta Creative Hub in Tanah Abang, Central Jakarta.

The festival gave homeworkers a space to share their experience and raise public awareness about their working conditions.

Homeworkers, or "pekerja rumahan" in local parlance, are not recognized as company employees by the Indonesian government even though they do a lot of odd jobs for both local and multinational companies from home — and get paid very little for it.

These odd jobs include peeling onions, packaging food, sewing beads on a dress and glueing shoe soles.

The festival also put a spotlight on other "informal workers," including housemaids, ojek (motorcycle taxi) drivers, farmers and fisherwomen.

TURC program officer Evania Putri told the Jakarta Globe these workers share the same plight: their rights are not protected by the government.

No government regulations exist for informal workers, except for farmers and fisherwomen. There are no standard working hours or salaries, and no benefits or medical insurance. If they want to go on a holiday, homeworkers have to negotiate their leave every time with their employers.

The spotlight on women homeworkers was a reflection of Central Statistics Agency’s (BPS) data showing that 63.48 percent of Indonesian women work in the informal sector as of February 2017 — higher than the percentage for men at 54.94 percent.

"Gender-based issues in the workforce never stop being relevant. Pay gaps and other problems reflecting unequal rights are commonly faced by women workers," Evania said.

The National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan) Deputy Chairwoman Yuniyanti Chuzaifah, who was a speaker at the festival, said women workers face constant sexual harassment because Indonesian law offers very narrow definitions of sex crime.

The only forms of sexual crime recognized by the law at the moment are penetrative rape and child sexual abuse.

Pillow Talks

The festival featured discussions, lectures, workshops, film screenings and exhibitions. Rights groups, including National Network for Domestic Workers Advocacy (Jala PRT), Tifa Foundation, Sindikasi and Indonesian Women’s Coalition for Justice and Democracy, also opened pop-up stands at the festival.

Topics covered in the discussions and lectures included "informalization" of labor, depiction of women workers in the media and sexual harassment in the workplace.

One of the more popular events at the festival was the "Getting to Know More About Homeworkers" role-playing game.

"Visitors play the role of a homeworker. They get paid the same salary as a homeworker. For example, they get Rp 200 (less than a cent) for glueing a shoe sole," Evania said.

TURC also brought homeworkers from six cities — Jakarta, Tangerang (Banten), Cirebon and Sukabumi (West Java) and Solo and Sukoharjo (Central Java) — whom they had mentored to the festival.

These homeworkers were especially impressed by a collage-making workshop run by DIY artist Ika Vantiani.

The workers said making collages turned out to be an effective way to learn to express themselves.

One of them, Munalar from Muara Baru, North Jakarta, made a dramatic collage using pictures of boats and family photos.

"The boats are afloat, and the water ebbs and flows. Kind of like us homeworkers, sometimes we have something to work on, we get jobs, sometimes we don’t," she said.

The collages were exhibited in the festival next to a photo exhibition called "Rumahku Dapur Produksiku" (My Home, My Production House) showing the places where many of these homeworkers live and work.

The Jakarta Globe photographer Yudha Baskoro was one of the photographers in the exhibition.

For a change, the photos were not put in frames but printed on pillows which were also the main decorative feature at the festival venue.

"The pillows represent the fact that homeworkers don't have fixed work hours since they work from home. A lot of them have trouble getting enough rest," Evania said.

Many women homeworkers also have to juggle work with doing house chores, giving them even less time to rest.

"Our aim is to get the public and the government to acknowledge that these homeworkers exist. That they're all around us. We took journalists on a tour of recently and they were quite surprised when they found out many of them were wearing shoes that these homeworkers made," Evania said.


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