Domestic workers make up a huge percentage of the workforce in Indonesia. Many of them start as young woman from rural areas who come to the big city to take care of somebody else’s family so that they can make money to support their own family.
Some Indonesian families treat their pembantu (helper) very well, like members of their own family. But many domestic workers face the very real possibility of abuse or exploitation at the hands of their employers, while others must endure more mundane – but often equally dehumanizing – mistreatment:
According to Michael Fanny, who posted this image on FB earlier this month, this photo shows a young maid (circled in red) sitting alone while watching her employer’s family eat at another table.
Of course, we must take Michael at his word that is what is going on in the picture. The supposed maid might have been just a random person sitting at a nearby table, or she might simply be waiting for her food to come. But all of us who have lived in Southeast Asia have no doubt seen similar scenes – or much worse – plenty of times.
At any rate, the image along with Michael’s caption proved moving enough that the photo has been shared over 57,000 times since it was first posted.
In the caption of the photo, Michael writes:
“Your pembantu is part of your life. a reflection of your humanity. Imagine you are in their position, no phone to hold, not invited to eat, Eyes just looking around. They chew while we swallow.
We must respect and love our maids, our drivers, our gardeners…
Life is not about profits and loss, it is not about ourselves .. By sharing a little of what we have then we are sharing the love of God. #respectotherpeople #respectourmaid #respectourdriver #loveotherpeople #Godislove
Life is born of giving.”
Sad as the picture may be, It is heartwarming to us that so many people in Indonesia would share it on social media and express their sympathy for the pembantu and agreement with what Michael wrote.
Hopefully it’s a sign of changing attitudes towards domestic helpers, and of a general increase in respect for the hard work done by people on the other side of Indonesia’s vast wealth gap.
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