January 24, 2024
JAKARTA – As a former migrant worker in Hong Kong turned award-winning filmmaker in Indonesia, my reflective journey extends beyond personal experiences to collaborative efforts integral to reshaping women’s narratives, especially those engaged in menial jobs. Social media, a double-edged sword, has found its true potential in a collective endeavor.
In the labyrinth of virtual connections, negative aspects of social media emerge as a haunting specter. Instances of migrant workers in Hong Kong falling victim to harmful influences, where the very tool designed to connect became a conduit for deception, echo in my memory. Some, like Ika Puspitasari and Listyowati, whom I interviewed for my upcoming documentary film, Pilihan (Choices) donated their hard-earned money to dubious groups under the guise of supporting noble causes, only to discover their benevolence was misplaced.
In this regard, social media, in the wrong hands, can be perilous ground, preying on the vulnerability of migrant workers and exploiting their desire to contribute positively to society.
However, the reflective lens pivots to acknowledge the positive facets of social media, recognizing its transformative potential when wielded by creative migrant workers in Singapore, like Masitoh from Malang, East Java. Engaging with her, taught me that in the hands of those with a vision for a better future, social media becomes a powerful ally. She has been using social media wisely, including upgrading her formal education from middle school to high school and now finishing her diploma in hospitality management in Singapore.
Driven by the desire to harness the skills of migrant workers, my team and I started an online platform called RUMI, short for Ruang Migran (Migrants’ Room). This initiative is a conduit for migrant workers to share their stories, fostering a sense of community and solidarity. Platforms like RUMI serve not only as a means of sharing stories but also as a catalyst for change, enabling migrant workers to reshape their narratives and challenge the status quo.
Creative expressions find a digital stage, amplifying voices that might otherwise remain unheard. The ability to showcase talent, share experiences and connect with like-minded individuals enhances the prospect of a brighter future.
The negative episodes of migrant workers misled by deceptive causes underscore the importance of digital literacy and awareness. Reflecting on these incidents serves as a call to action, urging the creation of safeguards and educational initiatives to protect vulnerable individuals from falling prey to online pitfalls.
On the flip side, the positive impact of social media in the hands of creative migrant workers is evident in narratives of empowerment, self-expression and community building.
Recognizing the limitations of working in isolation, I have forged meaningful partnerships with grassroots organizations committed to women’s empowerment. One such collaboration is with Aisyiyah, the women’s wing of Muhammadiyah in Yogyakarta.
To conclude the year 2023, I organized an informal gathering with Aisyiyah to navigate the intricate maze of social media, leveraging its power to amplify the voices of women and migrant workers. Working with Aisyiyah is very strategic; its grassroots presence provides a vital connection to the community, ensuring that the stories shared resonate with the lived experiences of women on the ground.
In this reflective exploration, the importance of collaboration is underscored.
The synergy between RUMI and Aisyiyah has created a robust platform where narratives are not only shared but also woven into the fabric of community empowerment. Social media, when harnessed collectively, becomes a tool for fostering solidarity and driving positive change.
The collaboration extends beyond grassroots efforts to academia, where the master’s in management program at the Muhammadiyah University of Yogyakarta (UMY) plays a pivotal role. By engaging with academic institutions, the reflective journey delves into the intersectionality of social media, storytelling and academic research. The collaboration with the master’s in management program provides a bridge between theory and lived experiences, enriching the narrative with academic rigor and depth.
Additionally, the reflective lens zooms in on the collaboration with the Agency for the Protection of Indonesian Migrant Workers (BP2MI), recognizing the importance of government institutions in shaping policies that directly impact women, especially those in menial jobs. Working in tandem with the BP2MI is a strategic move to influence and advocate for protective measures, acknowledging that systemic change is a collaborative effort.
The collaborative approach, woven into the fabric of this reflective journey, highlights the interconnectedness of various stakeholders. It is a recognition that true empowerment arises not from solitary efforts but from a collective commitment to change. As RUMI, Aisyiyah, the UMY and BP2MI converge in purpose, the narrative evolves beyond individual reflections to a shared tapestry of resilience, empowerment and progress.
The collaboration becomes the guiding force, transforming the double-edged sword into a beacon of positive change. The reflective journey serves as a testament to the power of unity, demonstrating that when diverse entities come together with a shared vision, the stories of women, particularly those in menial jobs, can transcend the limitations of the digital realm and ripple into the fabric of societal transformation.