Umi Sugiharti, an Indonesian woman who has spent over 14 years overseas as a domestic worker in Hong Kong, Singapore and currently Taiwan, is about to publish her third collection of fiction.
Sugiharti has loved writing since childhood, and published works of poetry during her high school years. She told Udn Daily News that her busy routine as a domestic helper had not prevented her from writing over the last 14 years.
Rather, her own life experiences and those of other migrant workers in Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan inspired Sugiharti, and she kept a journal detailing incidents and episodes, which she uses as the basis for her stories.
She started working in Taipei five years ago and joined a Facebook group for Indonesian writers. Today she is an active member of Forum Lingkar Pena (FLP).
With support from peer readers, as well as professional writers, Sugiharti has established a routine that allows her to write five pages a day. Writing, she says, allows her to forget tiredness, stay happy and gain affirmation.
She has also entered poems in the Poetry & Essay Writing Contest organised by Taipei City’s Foreign and Disabled Labor Office. She won first prize in 2013 and the Special Jury Award in 2015.
Under the pen name Bunda Umy, Sugiharti released her first book of fiction, titled Genderang Cinta Nia, in 2013, and her second, Asmara Suatu Ketika, in 2015. English versions of both titles are slated for release next year.
Sugiharti also expressed deep gratitude to her current employer, who gave her a tablet computer that allows her digitize her handwritten pieces.
Sugiharti plans to return home to Indonesia next year and says she intends to spend her 15-year savings on opening a bookshop that will serve as a hub for writers and readers.