Finding the Voice for Our Change

Women workers are now able to voice the urge for changes. Starting from company policies on prevention of sexual abuse, to better behavior for health.

Being poked by a male mechanic worker has become commonplace for Indriyani, 25, a woman worker in a garment factory.

“They said they are just kidding. “Me and the other women tailors who are also frequently poked actually feel uncomfortable, but didn’t know that it’s a sexual harassment,” said the quality controller at the garment factory.

The woman who lives in Pondokkaso Tonggoh, Sukabumi Regency, admitted that she used to be shy and did not have the confidence to speak in public. That is why when she experienced sexual harassment, she kept silent. 

Indriyani changed after participating in the EKATA (Empowerment, Knowledge and Transformative Action) group formed by Yayasan CARE Peduli (YCP). EKATA is a self-help and solidarity group for women garment workers in the communities where they live. EKATA members establish relationships with their peers, share experiences, evaluate and understand problems, and work together to solve problems. 47 EKATA has been established in Sukabumi and Purwakarta districts.

The EKATA material is quite comprehensive. The members learn about leadership, communication, problem solving, and negotiation. They are also encouraged to understand about clean water, sanitation, health and nutrition. Mental health, prevention of gender-based violence and financial literacy are also discussed. There is also materials on how to facilitate and share information, which Indriyani practiced by telling about EKATA to family, friends, as well as superiors and fellow tailors at the factory.

“After joining EKATA, I am brave to tell the mechanic to not touch me anymore,” said Indriyani. If not, she will report it to Human Resources (HR) department at the factory. 

Not only that, she and her group, EKATA Apel, wrote a complaint about sexual harassment and put it in the factory suggestion box. The box is opened every month by HR. Indriyani also submitted a similar complaint to her superiors, who then followed up with the union and factory management.

The factory management responded well to this input. A series of outreach on factory policies on Sexual Harassment Prevention were held. A video about sexual harassment in a garment factory is also shown on the canteen television so that all workers can watch it and understand how to report similar incidents to management.

Like Indriyani, Onih Kurniasih, 31, was initially uncomfortable speaking in front of a crowd. Nervousness, embarrassment, and fear are mixed together. When participating in the training for trainers (Training of Trainers, ToT) EKATA, the tailor at a garment factory in Purwakarta Regency always felt shaky and wanted to cry when she had to express her opinion.

“But all the trainers and participants were very kind. They said there are no wrong answers, and we are all learning together here. Now I have the courage to speak up, ”said the woman who has been working as a sewing labor since she was 15 years old.

Onih not only changed to be able to have an opinion, but also cared more about personal health. When working, she didn’t like wearing masks, never had breakfast, and rarely drank because she was chasing her work targets. EKATA made her aware of the dangers of this unhealthy habit, as well as its potential future consequences.

“I never thought about the bad effects of this habit on health later. After knowing, I immediately changed my daily habits, ”she explained.

For the sake of her health, Onih now makes sure she has breakfast before leaving for work. She tries to eat more vegetables. A drinking bottle always accompany her in the factory, and she never forgets to wear a mask all the time.

After changing her lifestyle, Onih now feels she has a fresher mind and body. Furthermore, she becomes more productive and always reaches his daily target.

From EKATA, she also realized the importance of saving, especially for her daughter’s education.

“I was not able to enter SMA (Senior High School) because my family was broken and had no money. But now I’m saving money so my children can go to university. All this so that their lives will be better than mine, ”she said excitedly. 

Both Indriyani and Onih knew EKATA from their village cadres, who were effective recruiters for participants. The cadres explained that the training participants could learn many things, make new friends, and jointly solve problems in factories, homes and communities.

At the beginning, Onih admitted that she was not sure and suspected that this program was just a scam. “I asked many questions, what are the benefits of joining? Is this legal? ” she said. 

She then followed the EKATA socialization at her residence, Cisaat Village, Sukabumi Regency. Convinced by the explanation from the YCP team, Onih decided to join the ToT. The rest is history.

“Joining the EKATA group makes me very happy. I can learn various things, also make new friends to share problems and find solutions. I also know the importance of loving myself, ”said Onih.

Now, EKATA in Sukabumi and Purwakarta districts has taken steps to ensure sustainability and increase its influence in determining village development priorities. 13 EKATA groups in Sukabumi are working with the Regional Leadership Cooperative Council (Dekopinda) to set up a savings and loan cooperative and are in the process of legal registration. 10 EKATA in Purwakarta is registered in their village, so they can participate in village development meetings and receive activity funding from the village. Meanwhile, three EKATA groups in Sukabumi are in the process of legalizing the making of a Decree (SK) from the Village Head. This process will significantly increase the influence of the EKATA group on society, as well as support local government programs that meet the needs of women garment workers.

In Sukabumi, the EKATA group has finalized its activity plan and has begun taking action to promote its rights and welfare in the home, community and workplace. Their actions have had an impact, among others, to make their environment aware of sexual harassment in factories, and to encourage village officials to solve the problem of waste and improve street lighting. They also collaborate with other service providers, such as the Health Office, the Women Empowerment and Child Protection Agency (DP3A), the Manpower Office, and so on. In partnership with another YCP program, Together for Justice (BUKA), they are also preparing to form the Working Women Learning Network (JBPP). The 23 EKATA in Purwakarta have completed the ToT, and will plan their activities in 2020.

Improvement of Welfare, Dignity, Health and Leadership of Women Workers (Worker Dignity, Health and Leadership / WDHL)

Objective: Improve the dignity, welfare, health, leadership, quality of life and productivity of women garment workers in Indonesia

Duration: 2018-2020

Location: Sukabumi Regency and Purwakarta Regency, West Java

Number of beneficiaries as of December 2019: 1,092 people

Implementing partners: PEKKA Foundation (Women Heads of Families) and the Pasoendan Women’s Resource Development Center Foundation (PPSW)

Funding support: TARGET Inc