Silent fear, a tale of two maids in Malaysia

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KAJANG: Imagine living in a constant state of anxiety or fear, unsure of when you’ll be paid, and knowing that many of your friends are in a similar situation, with some of them facing daily threats of abuse.

This is the story of two Indonesian maids, who told FMT of their life as domestic helps in Malaysia.

Nurul, 33, recalled watching helplessly as the authorities dragged away one of her friends who had attempted to flee Malaysia illegally. “She desperately wanted to go back to her hometown because she could not stand being abused by her employer.”

Nurul, who comes from Aceh, said the friend, who worked in a home in Kajang, had undergone various kinds of abuse.

“She told me she was not paid accordingly, her passport was taken from her, and she was not allowed to eat sometimes.

“Since she was caught by immigration officers, there has been no news from her.”

Nurul has been working as a maid for nearly two years. She said she came to Malaysia to help her ailing sister. She had to earn money to enable her to send the sister back to their hometown.

She said she never planned to stay and work in Malaysia. However, due to financial constraints, she had no choice but to continue.

Another maid who called herself Wan said it would help thousands of underprivileged Indonesian citizens like herself if their government could provide jobs for them.

“It would be better if the Indonesian government considered providing jobs so that we don’t have to go to other countries to earn a living,” the 36-year-old told FMT.

Wan hails from East Java and has been working in Malaysia for almost four years.

She said those who came to Malaysia to work as maids or construction workers usually originated from small and secluded villages in Indonesia.

“Good paying jobs are scarce in Indonesia, and it is even more difficult for those who come from small towns,” she said.

“Many of us are from small villages, and there are two options for us back there. Either we stay and work as plantation workers or work illegally in other countries.”

According to a recent news report, there are more than 250,000 registered domestic workers in Malaysia.

The report quoted statistics showing that one in every 20 maids run away from their employers. Among the reasons given were abuse by employers, misleading job descriptions given by employment agencies, poor working conditions and better opportunities elsewhere.

Wan said maids who ran away from their employers were typically those hired through agents.

Most of them were not paid according to agreements with their agents or employers, she added.