Serene: Can you talk a bit about yourself? You can start with anything you feel comfortable talking about. Don’t think about how to say something. Just follow your heart.
Selly: Okay sure. I was born in Indonesia. I am 22 now, but on my passport, I am 7 years older, because I needed to be over the minimum agw when I went to work in Singapore. I stopped schooling in 12.
My dad passed away when I was 8 years old. My mother was out of consciousness and had mental problem (根據我後面的追問，意思應該是：父親去世後，母親突然失去了生存的意識，精神上也有了問題）. She was not able to look after me and my 2 other siblings（姐妹）. At that time, I lived with my grandma but she had so many grandchildren to look after and could not take care of me. I just graduated from primary school, and I never saw the world as what I can see right now. I started working when I was 13 years old. My family arranged marriage for me when I was 14 with a man that I knew nothing about. It was not a legal marriage from the government’s perspective and it was 6 months long.
At that time, the only perception I have for a marriage with a stranger is that I can have someone to take care of me. So I agreed with the arrangement. After I got married, I slept in the kitchen for a long time and cried all the time. My husband told my family that he didn’t marry anyone before, but he actually divorced with his ex-wife. His ex-wife lived next to our house and they had a child. I tried really hard to be a stepmother at such a young age. I had to deal with his ex-wife, too. My husband didn’t treat me well at all.
I asked my husband, “why do you want to spoil my life when you still love your ex-wife?” (你明明還愛著你的前妻，為什麼要毀了我的生活？） He went to his wife’s house every night and came back around 3am. Once, he tried to kick me with a wood, and I was too young to understand if he was doing it intentionally. （我太年輕，不知道這是否是家庭暴力行為，還是只是意外。）6 months later, I decided to take a risk and leave my marriage, without telling anyone. One day, I lied to my husband and left the house. （有一天，我對他撒謊，偷偷逃了出來。）I didn’t want to go back to my grandma’s house. I couldn’t go to school either, because we didn’t have money for me to go to school.
After I left, I didn’t fear any more. I didn’t feel young any more, either. （離開了我的婚姻和家庭以後，我突然覺得自己沒什麼好害怕的了，但我也覺得自己不再年輕了。）I decided to go to Singapore, because I wanted to make money to send my sister to senior high school, who’s studying in an Indonesian university now. Two months after I escaped (逃跑), I told my brother, and he supported my decision. Two years later, I finally got divorced. In Indonesian culture, if a girl made a mistake in the marriage, husband’s family will ask for money from the wife. If I didn’t give them money, I couldn’t get divorced.
My life was still like yesterday. Everything is still in my mind.
Serene: I’m not familiar with the situation for women in Indonesia. Would you mind sharing something about that?
Selly: I came from Sakumabi in the west part of Java, Indonesia, where most women are uneducated and are really dependent on men. In Indonesia, if a woman gets married at the age of 15, it is really normal. Mostly their families arrange the marriage for them. But men are not committed to the marriage and not responsible for their wives. For girls, to get married at such a young age, it is so hard. When we come to understand what marriage really means in a later age, we want to do something about it. Some men send their wives abroad to work and they take care of the children. But they usually get married with another woman. When their wives come back, they will divorce with that woman.
I am a victim of the young marriage, and I am still learning a lot of things.(我是一個被迫早婚的受害者，但我仍然學到了很多東西。)
Serene: What do you think about such phenomena?
Selly: Women don’t think for themselves, their education, and their lives at all. They don’t have the confidence to know their rights and to think for themselves. At the same time, men don’t treat women well and they take advantage of women. Most women go abroad to work to take care of men in their family. For example, I have to take care of my brothers before they get married.
Serene: Can you share some stories about your work as a domestic helper?
Selly: My first employer was a Chinese in Singapore, who didn’t speak English. The agency deducted my salary for the first eight months. I managed to work there for 1 year and 3 months. Another domestic helper didn’t treat me well and I had to do all the work for the employer. I felt really sad. I told my employer that I wanted to leave and go home even though I didn’t have any money. But my employer didn’t take any action to find a substitute. I went to the agency and later went back to Indonesia.
My second employer was an Indian family in Singapore. I worked for them for 8 months, and I had to pay 4-month salary as the deduction. Singaporeans speak Singlish but they make the language really hard to understand. Working for the Indian family helped me study English. The employer really took care of my education, which made me realize the importance of the education and learning. I like reading books and they encouraged me to take government courses for domestic helpers in Singapore. （新加坡政府有提供給女傭的培訓課程）I used the money I earned to help my sister go to high school. I want her to study as much as possible, a chance that I didn’t get when I was younger. I hope she can have a better chance in life. （我努力賺錢，因為我希望送妹妹去讀書，這是我年輕時候沒能擁有的機會，我希望她未來能有更好的選擇。）
My third and current employer is from Singapore, and I have worked for them for two years. When they moved to Hong Kong, I came along with them. When I first came to Hong Kong, I didn’t think I would feel comfortable living here. I was used to living in Singapore, which was close to Indonesia and I had experience living there. I told myself, “Selly, you have to take the challenge! You are always ready for challenges.” （我剛來香港的時候，並沒有料到我會適應這裡的生活。我雖然在新加坡生活過，但那裡和印尼還比較相似。所以當我來到香港的時候，我告訴自己，Selly, 你要接受這個挑戰！你一直都是能應對挑戰的人） I should learn in Hong Kong as I learned in Singapore.
I like Hong Kong, because it gives you the opportunity to learn and the freedom to try even you are just a overseas domestic helper. （我很感激香港的一點是：儘管只是一個女傭，也有學習的機會和自由。）This is really different from Singapore. Even though some Hong Kong people are mean and rude, but most of the people I met are really nice and supportive. For the first few days, I was really sad because I left all my friends in Singapore. I met the random woman on the street. I guessed she’s Indonesian, since her dress is from Indonesia. I grabbed her bag and asked her “do you know any place to learn?” I didn’t know her and I just asked her. That’s when I started to know about the organization and learn in TCKLC. （還記得我剛搬到香港的那幾天，我在路上碰到了一個陌生的年輕女性，我認得出她的衣服是印尼的衣服，我抓住她的包，鼓起勇氣問，“你知道有哪些地方可以學習嗎？” 我其實並不認識她，就問了她。我現在去的那個培訓機構就是她當初給我介紹。）
TCKLC is a non-profit organization that provides an education for those domestic helper job hk. I’m joining an English class, and I am happy to be part of the Learning Centre because I meet a lot of new and interesting people, which reminds me how important education is.
Serene: Can you also share some of your challenges as a domestic helper?
Selly: I never feel frustrated. I always try to talk to my boss about personal life and work, even about you. I try to build the connection and relationship with my boss. If I pretend to be a stranger or outsider in the family, it’s really hard for the relationship to grow and for my work to continue. The most difficult part is: I didn’t know anything about taking care of kids. When the kids first cried, I cried, too. But I learned from experiences. (我從來不為困難而沮喪。我總是嘗試和我的雇主溝通，我也提到了你。我想和他們建立良好的關係，如果我把自己當作外人，那我很難長期待在這個家庭裡。對我來說最難的其實是照顧小孩，我完全不會照顧小孩，小孩第一次在我面前哭的時候，我也哭了。但是我吸取經驗教訓，在生活中學習。）