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Singapore workers 01
Singapore
By Ana Salvá
22 Mar 2016

Moe Moe looks at Singapore from the elevator of a shopping center where is located the organization that helps her after being abused by her employers. She was hired to take care of 3 children and the household chores. Her working day began at 5 am and ended at midnight. She ate white rice three times a day accompanied by a glass of water and received punches as punishment when stealing food in the kitchen. In April will began the trial against her employers

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Singapore workers 05
Singapore
By Ana Salvá
22 Mar 2016

Kee Hli Pai and her friend Awe Hung are enjoying their day off in Península Plaza, where they use to meet Burmese domestic workers on Sundays. There seem hasty to take advantage of their limited free time, make new friends or meet other migrants who come in search of romance. Sunday is always short for them. By nightfall they must return to the places where they work and stay.

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Singapore workers 09
Singapore
By Ana Salvá
22 Mar 2016

A couple of friends enjoy their Sunday off in Península Plaza, where Burmese domestic workers use to meet. Since 2012, domestic workers are entitled to wage once a week. This law has generated controversy because there are those who are convinced that the government has not done enough to meet international rights, while others complain of not being able to control the time of those women with the risk of establishing relationships or become pregnant.

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Singapore workers 12
Singapore
By Ana Salvá
22 Mar 2016

A couple of friends enjoy their Sunday off in Península Plaza, where Burmese domestic workers use to meet. Since 2012, domestic workers are entitled to wage once a week. This law has generated controversy because there are those who are convinced that the government has not done enough to meet international rights, while others complain of not being able to control the time of those women with the risk of establishing relationships or become pregnant.

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Singapore workers 10
Singapore
By Ana Salvá
22 Mar 2016

A young Burmese is at the gates of Peninsula Plaza shopping center

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Singapore workers 11
Singapore
By Ana Salvá
22 Mar 2016

A Burmese is enjoying his Sunday off with friends at the gates of Peninsula Plaza shopping center

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Singapore workers 13
Singapore
By Ana Salvá
22 Mar 2016

Ummai, 34, poses near a central street in Singapore. She is a domestic worker from Indonesia who arrived to Singapore in the 90's. She worked at the home of employers who forced her to sleep with a mattress on the balcony and had not a single day off. A few years later, she started the Indonesia Family Network thanks to the generosity of her current employers that allow her time off work if her conferences or activities require

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Singapore workers 14
Singapore
By Ana Salvá
22 Mar 2016

Cartoon example. More available by request.

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Trapped in Singapore
Singapore
By Ana Salvá
17 Jan 2016

The dream of a better life to open a business back in Burma is what made Moe Moe reach to Singapore two years ago. What she hasn't taken into account is that she would spend nine months before she won her first salary because of the deductions made by the company that brought her up here: a practice that traps women with a lot of debt and makes them withstand all kinds of abuse to get their first salary. "I was paid $ 420 Singapore [around 280 euros] and I had not a single day in 10 months," explains the 25-year old Burmese woman. Her stocky body and short stature contrast with the photos taken during the time she was abused, where she looks emaciated and beaten.

Thousands of women come to Singapore every year, attracted by the wages of this prosperous city state. But they are manipulated by agents and employers. The conditions of some of them here are similar to slavery. In the 90's the government encouraged women to the labor market and increased the number of visas available for foreign domestic workers to take care of the household chores. But after the crisis of 1997, agencies sought a new way to make money advertising the "zero dollars maids," meaning that the placement rates must be paid by workers when employers did before. The situation has been getting worse over the years. If at first the workers paid 3 to 6 months of their salary, now could be up to 10 months; a practice that traps women with a lot of debt and makes them withstand all kinds of abuse to get your first salary. In addition, many of them have no day off a week and have difficulty asking for help.

The lucky women who have the day off use to meet in public spaces for picnicking or in the vicinity of some malls. There seem hasty to take advantage of their limited free time, make new friends or meet other migrants who are looking for a romance. Sunday is always short for them. When night falls, they must return to the places where they work and stay. In recent years there have been some changes, such as improving some social norms or a gradual increase in law enforcement. Starting next December, agencies will have to be evaluated as a requirement to renew their licenses. However, only employers may evaluate, leaving aside domestic workers; HOME, a local organization, demands that it is incorporated before it takes effect, so they can have a protective mechanism to alleviate the extreme vulnerability they face.

Text by Ana Salvá

Photos by Omar Montenegro

Cartoons by Omar Montenegro (by request)

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Singapore workers 02
Singapore
By Ana Salvá
17 Jan 2016

Misanda, a 20 years old Burmese domestic worker, is enjoying her weekly day off in Singapore. Domestic workers saw recognized their right to wage a day off a week in 2012, although some of them traded the day in exchange for financial compensation to add to their meager incomes.

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Singapore workers 03
Singapore
By Ana Salvá
17 Jan 2016

Misanda, a 20 years old Burmese domestic worker, is enjoying her weekly day off in Singapore. Domestic workers saw recognized their right to wage a day off a week in 2012, although some of them traded the day in exchange for financial compensation to add to their meager incomes.

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Singapore workers 04
Singapore
By Ana Salvá
17 Jan 2016

Misanda and her friend Mimika are enjoying her weekly day off in Singapore. Domestic workers saw recognized their right to wage a day off a week in 2012, although some of them traded the day in exchange for financial compensation to add to their meager incomes.

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Singapore workers 06
Singapore
By Ana Salvá
17 Jan 2016

A group of Burmese domestic workers just met at the Peninsula Plaza mall. Women who have the day off on Sunday tend to meet in public spaces for picnicking or in the vicinity of some shopping centers.

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Singapore workers 08
Singapore
By Ana Salvá
17 Jan 2016

A group of Burmese domestic workers just met at the Peninsula Plaza mall. Women who have the day off on Sunday tend to meet in public spaces for picnicking or in the vicinity of some shopping centers.

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Semarang, Indonesia
By Ruom
10 Jun 2014

A domestic worker returns to work in Singapore after attending her mother's funeral at her home in Indonesia.

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Kendal, Indonesia
By Ruom
09 Jun 2014

Aspiring domestic workers relax in their bunks at training centre.

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Semarang, Indonesia
By Ruom
08 Jun 2014

Tutik arrives home after working in Singapore for three years. Her daughter Ika is so happy she is home she doesn't leave her alone.

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Singapore
By Ruom
08 Jun 2014

Tutik prepares to fly home. She finished her contract with her employer and waits to board her plane back to Semarang in Indonesia.

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Semarang, Indonesia
By Ruom
08 Jun 2014

Tutik arrives home after working in Singapore for three years. Her suitcases are filled with souvenirs for her two daughters.

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Singapore
By Ruom
07 Jun 2014

Anandha recites the Koran during a contest organized by local Humanitarian organizations.

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Singapore
By Ruom
11 May 2014

Maid agency with domestic workers at Katong shopping centre.

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Singapore
By Ruom
09 May 2014

Agencies advertising maids for hire, and show their skills in display centre at Bukit Timah shopping plaza.

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Singapore
By Ruom
09 May 2014

Images advertising the work of migrant workers on the wall of a maid agency in Bukit Timah shopping plaza.

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Singapore
By Ruom
09 May 2014

Istiana waits for a taxi with her new employer. She was picked up from Bukit Temah Shopping Centre by her employer to be taken home.

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Singapore
By Ruom
07 May 2014

A view of the port and high-rises of the CBD.

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Semarang, Indonesia
By Ruom
06 May 2014

Istiana along with other migrant workers prepare to board a plane to Singapore. The women will not be able to return home for the next two years.

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Semarang, Indonesia
By Ruom
04 May 2014

Future migrant workers attend a mandatory day of classes at BP2TKI before leaving to work overseas. BP2TKI is the regional regulation office for overseas migration in Indonesia.

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Salatiga, Indonesia
By Ruom
03 May 2014

Istiana starts packing her stuff together with her sister and nephew. She will leave to work in Singapore the following day and she will not be able to see her family for the next two years.

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Salatiga, Indonesia
By Ruom
02 May 2014

Saffira cares for her grandfather. Istiana, Saffira's mother, is leaving to work in Singapore the following day. Istiana will not be able to see her for the next two years.

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Salatiga, Indonesia
By Ruom
02 May 2014

Istiana in her home, she will leave to work in Singapore the following day and will not be able to see her family for the next two years. Istiana has has been working abroad as domestic worker for almost 10 years, this will be the first time she goes to Singapore.

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Dreaming Singapore
Kendal, Indonesia
By Ruom
01 May 2014

Aspiring domestic workers sign the contract to start their training in a centre in Kendal.

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Dreaming singapore 003
Kendal, Indonesia
By Ruom
01 May 2014

The billboard of a recruitment agency for migrant domestic workers can be seen along a main road.

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Kendal, Indonesia
By Ruom
01 May 2014

Tutik's daughter, Ika at school. During the three years her mother has been working in Singapore she has been able to see her once for 24hrs.

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Sumber Sari, Indonesia
By Ruom
30 Apr 2014

Devita (16) talks with her grandfather and cousin. Since her mother left the village to work in Singapore 3 years ago, she has been living with her grandparents together with her sister, Ika (18).

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Sumber Sari, Indonesia
By Ruom
30 Apr 2014

Farmers collect onions from a field in the outskirts of the village for less than 3 USD per day. In the last decade, the lack of job opportunities and low wages forced many people to migrate abroad.

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Kendal, Indonesia
By Ruom
29 Apr 2014

Aspiring domestic workers study english in a training centre in Kendal.

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Kendal, Indonesia
By Ruom
29 Apr 2014

A baby doll is used to teach aspiring domestic workers about child care in a training centre.

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Kendal, Indonesia
By Ruom
29 Apr 2014

An aspiring domestic worker during a Skype conversation with a possible future employer in Singapore.

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Dadap, Indonesia
By Ruom
27 Apr 2014

Anida who recently returned from working in Singapore as a domestic worker, works harvesting rice near her home. Dadap is well know in the region for having a high migration rate.

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Indramayu, Indonesia
By Ruom
26 Apr 2014

Didi, son of Darkoni, a former domestic worker, shows the x-ray of her mother's skull. After working in Saudia Arabia for 2 years, she returned home with a severe mental disorder caused by a head trauma. The family doesn't know the circumstance of the accident.