DEBATE – HK Literary Festival Panel: The Help, Their Stories

Saturday saw key figures from the foreign domestic worker community gather for a discussion and Q&A session at the McAulay Studio in Wan Chai. The event formed part of the 2013 Hong Kong Literary Festival which put three helpers-turned-writers at the centre of the live debate…

“The dishes are all washed and the baby is asleep. While you have your nose buried in your favourite novel or your eyes peeled to the TV screen, do you ever wonder what your domestic helper may be doing behind her door? Penning a tome may not cross your mind. But an increasing number of them are. Three Indonesian migrant writers, Susie Utomo, Yulia Jafar Purwanto, Pandan Arum, pen short stories and full-length novels about their lonely journeys far from home, working in strangers’ homes.”

Also on the panel were Devi Novianti from Equal Opportunities Commission, Yuni Sze from the Indonesian magazine Apakabar, and Sam Aryadi, Vice Consul (Social-Cultural/Information) of Consular Indonesian Consulate General of Hong Kong.

During the session, Yuli, an Indonesian domestic worker, told how she suffered two years of misery at the hands of an employer and agency… Then, Pandan Arun spoke about her story ‘The Claim of Prostitute’, saying that “domestic worker & prostitution is similar” as, on many occasions, both have to swallow their pride. “Pride & poverty makes people make tough decisions”.

Sam Aryadi of the Indonesian consulate claimed that they had resolved all domestic worker cases reported to them last year, but admitted the Consul General should be the last place workers go for help… Aryadi did, however, agree to listen to the stories of HK’s helper community and attempt to fix the underlying rules that lead to injustice.