Village Women’s Advocacy for Strengthening Migrant Worker Protection: Safe Migration under Village and District Regulations

Mustaghfiroh Rahayu
Norin Mustika Rahadiri Abheseka

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This case study examines changes in the Central Lombok research village following the enactment of a Village Regulation on the Protection of Indonesian Migrant Workers in 2015. This Village Regulation responded to problems faced by female and other migrant workers during the course of their employment, from departure, to working overseas and returning home. A lack of information about safe migration and the risks associated with undocumented migration lie at the heart of these problems. Due to this lack of information, women, and in particular, female heads of families anxious about financial security became the main targets of brokers offering seemingly easy paths to become migrant workers. This has resulted in many women in this Central Lombok village departing without proper documentation or via the correct procedures. Consequently, if women experience problems or hardship during their employment overseas, it is challenging for the government to provide diplomatic assistance as they have little or incorrect information.

This lack of information about safe migration prompted Migrant CARE and its local partner the Panca Karsa Association (PPK) to support villagers to form the DESBUMI – Villages that Care for Migrant Workers – and to support village women to establish a women’s group for former migrant workers and their families called “La Tansa”, the name coming from an Arabic phrase meaning “do not forget”. This group provides a space for women to strengthen networks, friendships, and support from other women to advocate for the protection of migrant workers in Central Lombok, as well as to help strengthen their economic capacities.

Village women and PPK initially conducted a survey on mobility in order to convince the village government of the importance of acting on migrant worker issues. Based on this data (which was used to advocate to the village government for support), women DESBUMI cadres began disseminating information about safe migration and information on legal document services for prospective migrant workers.

Shortly after DESBUMI’s formation, ex-migrant worker women and families of current overseas workers organised themselves as the “La Tansa” Migrant Workers Observer Group. This group is an extension of the DESBUMI, and its members in various hamlets in the research village report to DESBUMI when issues related to migrant work arise. La Tansa has provided information about safe migration to other villagers and as a result many prospective migrant workers have since sought to get permission and documentation through official channels rather than using recruiters. La Tansa also aims to increase the livelihood skills of ex-migrant worker women through training sessions in wet and dry cake making and a variety of craft techniques. Following training, women can borrow equipment from the group to produce cakes to sell, which has provided an income to many members of the group. For some members, profits from the sale and special orders of cakes and chips has financially supported them to the extent that they do not wish to return to working overseas.

DESBUMI and the La Tansa women’s group have effectively utilised their networks with members of the village elite to produce policy change. Three years subsequent to the formation of DESBUMI, the village government issued Village Regulation No. 4, 2015 on the Protection of Overseas Indonesian Migrant Workers from Villages in Central Lombok, which was formed with inputs from village women and the support of the PPK. This Village Regulation has resulted in four important changes in the village. First, due to the central role of DESBUMI and La Tansa in effecting this change, women have become more confident in sharing their opinions and influencing public policy in the village. Second, the legal processing of documents in the village through DESBUMI has reduced problems and experiences of violence faced by migrant worker women. Third, DESBUMI cadres have assisted the village government in compiling migration data, which has enabled monitoring of migrant workers embarking and returning from abroad, as well as collaborative efforts to create targeted empowerment programs. Fourth, this regulation has created opportunities for economic empowerment that provide an alternative source of income for ex-migrant workers. The Regulation has strengthened the legitimacy of DESBUMI cadres and the La Tansa women’s group and ensures the sustainability of these groups through an allocation of village budget funds to DESBUMI programs.

This video maps the trajectory of change in a village in West Nusa Tenggara province on the island of Lombok. Particular contextual factors have meant that women often leave the island for employment. Changes were brought about with support from Migrant CARE and its local partner, the Panca Karsa Association. Women formed the group ‘La Tansa’ which informs, trains and advocates for female migrant workers.

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