BLOG – Powerful HK Helper Poetry to Mark Int’l Women’s Day


HK Helpers Campaign presents two powerful, passionate poems written about helpers to mark International Women’s Day this weekend. The first is from Indonesian helper Arista Devi (via Stories Beyond Borders), the second is from HK-based Canadian poet Akin Jeje.

Purple Poem

how much I want you to read my stories
to understand what is really happening
to learn the truth that’s often contested
people do not care what the reality is
we were never promised justice
or victory
at least enough to understand
why purple poems come from women migrant workers like me

it’s not a secret anymore
there are many parts of our story
which are often not covered
nor is a fragment of the story told right
sad that it feels more painful than feature film or opera
about Sumiati and Kokom in Saudi Arabia
about Rohmini and Ester in Malaysia
about En En and Eka Yulianti in Singapore
about Kartika and Erwiana in Hong Kong
many stories of other women migrant workers
whose name escapes mentions in the news
their names are a blur with their bodies buried together

this month, on the day that’s ours
let me tell you
not one prayer is answered and God isn’t coming soon
when are our backs whipped, our fingers cut and skin ironed
we’re forced to wander and used to finding parts of the body
and our souls have been raped one by one

on the day they call women’s day
let me represent my community
and knock on the door of your hearts
and like the first time God
opened the gates of life
to make our baby figure
screaming and crying for a long time
just open your eyes, look in the mirror, and learn
learn to liberate yourselves from mirage
despite every body being wrapped with various ornaments
you are no different than me and my community
you are just human, like me!
when the heartbeat stops
death comes nevertheless.

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Oppression is naturalized

Oppression is naturalized when stories of Indonesian helpless beaten, scalded and tortured in Hong Kong become as commonplace as kids shotshredded up in America’s school halls and streets, female foetuses aborted in back-alley clinics in Mumbai or Kolkata, or street kids in Manila scrounging the trash-strewn pavements, drunk fathers, dead mothers. Others see their plight, as they pass them, stare at them, and even get close enough to touch them. Most move by, ignoring the torment before them, or failing to realize.

Oppression feels natural where Asia’s World City has their DHs on the sidewalks, public parks, under the bridges, on traffic islands and the corridors of walkways on Sundays and holidays to congregate, to commiserate, when the city refuses to accommodate those with scant funds for the public plate. Even in their condition they tend to segregate- Filipinas, Central, Indonesians, Victoria Park, Sri Lankans in TST, Thais in Kowloon City, where their community still operates. Alienated, rather than expatriated from the larger community, they stay apart, if not completely separate.

Oppression is natural when there is a steady procession towards regression, like when the Court of Final Appeal rejected the suggestion of letting foreign domestic helpers stay here past their shelf life. Only oppression, not they, can naturalize.

Oppression is justified on lies, that somehow the entire nation of the Philippines caused the demise of innocent tourists on an ill-fated bus, with one ill-tempered cop who couldn’t stop himself from blazing a sharp, frantic path to infamy, so now Angel or Mariel or even Erwiana from Jakarta tidying up at home could be an impending calamity.

Oppression thrives even when justice is no longer denied for the abuse of a life- they gave that husband and wife three and five and a half years for their cruelty and lies. How that couple wishes they had lawyers like that Zimmerman guy, but for lashing Kartika with a bicycle chain and whatever else that could cause pain, they still got off light.

Oppression is not something our screens broadcast, of killings and conflicts in different climes.

It is on our streets, our daily lives. It is in our homes, in their swollen downcast eyes.

Oppression, its deeply seared impressions hardening into the softened faces of its victims, must be neutralized before it begins to naturalize.