A 41-year-old Indonesian mother of two who spent half her life working as a migrant worker in Malaysia to boost her family’s quality of life has recounted bitter moments and how she made good use of experiences to help her compatriots.
Catur Setyo Rahayu, nicknamed Ayu, was only 21 in 1998 and a mother of two children under the age of three when she had to become the family breadwinner due to marriage difficulties. That left her with little choice but to fly alone to Malaysia to be a domestic worker for a couple in Kuala Lumpur, The Guang Ming Daily (Malaysia) reported.
At first, the employer couple seemed perfectly friendly, but later her passport was confiscated and she received no salary and was given old food a few months later.
Around a year later she received a call from home, saying her son had fractured his leg after a fall at kindergarten. Ayu was devastated as the couple refused to pay any of her outstanding wages which she wanted to send home for her son’s surgery, despite her begging them for help.
She wanted to jump off the building but found a door of the house not locked, which prompted her to flee from her hellish predicament. On the way she walked past a compatriot who learned of her situation and brought her home. There, a few Indonesians each gave her 50 ringgit so she could send money home for her injured son.
Over the past two decades, she worked in various blue-collar jobs and is now the manager at a cleaning company.
Asked what she missed most, Ayu could not help but shed tears as she could not be a mother to raise or even witness her two sons growing up. She felt guilty because she could not be with them when they needed her.
As a victim of exploitation at work and having been overcharged for work visas, Ayu says she would now help her compatriots in Kuala Lumpur.
Once in the street she met an underage girl who appeared to have endured abuse, but could only mutter when she spoke. Ayu took her to a counseling service, where she was able to eventually open up and reveal how she had been sold by her abusive parents.