Tiwi’s story: A raincoat and a win for women workers’ rights in Indonesia

In Southeast Asia, with limited job opportunities and the cost of living on the rise, many women seek work abroad, or go to work in factories where workers’ rights are extremely limited. But with money from Global Fund for Women’s FLOW initiative, women’s groups are creating new economic options and protecting workplace safety for women. They are educating women about their workplace rights and bringing issues like minimum wage laws and safe working conditions to business and government leaders.

Tiwi needed to find work to keep up with the rising cost of living in Indonesia. So, like many women between the ages of 20 and 50, she started working on contract, making leather goods for a local factory. But she quickly learned the downsides of contract work in Indonesia: contract work allows factories to ignore laws on minimum wages and safe working conditions, and creates a culture of competition rather than solidarity among workers.

Despite these obstacles, Tiwi worked hard and was promoted to a day laborer position. But day laborers are not entitled to transportation, meals, or a uniform like permanent factory workers. This meant that during rainy season, Tiwi worked outside without a raincoat because the factory only provided coats to permanent workers.

When Tiwi discovered Global Fund for Women grantee Yasanti, one of the only female trade unions in Indonesia, she realized her rights were being violated. Yasanti empowered Tiwi by teaching her about her rights as a worker, helping her understand the value and purposes of labor unions and leadership, and connecting her with other women workers. With Yasanti’s help and network of women workers, Tiwi found her voice as a powerful advocate for workers’ rights.

Back at her factory, Tiwi used her voice to organize her coworkers and called a meeting with the management to demand raincoats. With the leadership skills she learned through Yasanti, Tiwi led a successful negotiation to get her and all other day laborers raincoats, along with improved facilities to keep them dry during the rainy season.

With a raincoat, it all changed. Today, Tiwi continues to work with Yasanti to fight for the rights of women workers in her community and throughout Indonesia.