The International Labour Organisation estimates that over 10 million children around the world are working as domestic workers, sometimes in hazardous, slave-like conditions.
And around 70 percent of them are girls.
The ILO has called for an end to child domestic labour.
Anisyah was only 15 when she started working as a domestic worker.
She had to quit school in the 7th grade.
“My father had a stroke. When the doctor came, she said she needed someone to work in her house. That’s why I decided to work.”
In her first job, she had to work 17 hours a day.
“I started working at 5 in the morning... making juice for the family, cooking, massaging the grandma at home. Then sweeping, mopping the floor, doing the laundry and ironing.”
Q. What time did you finish?
“10 at night. But then sometimes they asked me to do another job.”
She lasted for just two weeks and received 25 US dollars.
But without a proper education, she can only find work as a domestic servant.
In her next job, she worked for 15 hours a day for 60 US dollars a month.
“I slept in a bed without a mattress. It was a wooden bed, with so many things on it. It felt like sleeping in a warehouse. I only had a pillow and a thin blanket. I slept without the blanket, I wore gloves and socks. I looked like I was dressed to ride a motorbike.”
She quit again after only a week, and now she does the laundry in several different houses.
Anisyah is one of over 10 million child domestic workers worldwide, some of whom work in slave-like conditions.
Children carry out a variety of domestic tasks, from cleaning the house to caring for the elderly.
In Indonesia, the National Network for Domestic Workers Advocacy has identified several areas with a high number of child domestic workers.
One of them is in Kranji, in West Java.
Trying to flip the situation, they hold a free class every Sunday for 15 child domestic workers.
Inke Maris from the group says they also have a theatre class.
“We went to Kranji in 2011. We wanted the children to be able to express themselves, not just for their education but also their future. That’s why we came up with a theatre class, to provide a relaxed atmosphere. Then we formed Mutiara Studio.”
Herlina Syarifudin, a professional theatre lecturer, is one of the teachers.
“My goal is to make them confident to perform in public. So they can challenge the world. But it’s hard to build their confidence as they have been marginalised for so long. We try to raise their spirits, persuade them that they still have a long future ahead of them. And after a while we see some improvement.”
16-year-old Suci Rahmawati joins the class as she only works from Monday to Friday.
“Theatre is similar to acting. We have so many experiences. We have to perform well in the theatre.”
Q. You feel more confident now?
“At first I felt so shy. They had to ask me several times before I opened my mouth. But now I feel a lot more confident. It’s better than yesterday.”
With theatre, Inke wants to show child domestic workers like Suci that there is another world out there.
“I don’t want children to work as domestic workers any longer. This is one of the worst jobs in the world for children. At this age they should be going to school instead of working for money. When we ask them, they say they have to work to support the family. They are jealous of their friends who can go to school. As a result, they have low self- esteem.”
Suci took part in the first performance last June in Jakarta.
On stage, Suci used her experience to play the role of a domestic child worker who has to support her family.
After the performance, Anisyah says she wants to find a different job.
“I want to have a better job, in an office somewhere. I want to support my family better. I want to become independent.”