It can be hard to stomach, but even today the stories of migrant domestic worker abuse are prevalent, grave and unfortunately true. Occasionally you get wind of them, through an extreme case raised to attention through the media; or overhearing nasty confrontations from your next-door neighbors. But so many more accounts remain untold, hidden by workers themselves for fear of termination, or forcefully stamped out by controlling employers.
A new publication by local charity Humanitarian Organization for Migration Economics (HOME) seeks to bring those untold stories to light. Titled “Our Homes, Our Stories”, the book offers a look at life through the eyes of migrant domestic workers in Singapore. It’s more than just “maid abuse”; the 28 non-fiction stories explore different facets of the theme ‘Home’—from workers’ journeys leaving their villages and families, to arriving in Singapore and having to deal with rogue agents and difficult employers. Both residents of HOME’s shelter for runaway domestic workers and the organization’s volunteers contributed as writers.
The cover of Our Homes, Our Stories
Founded in 2004, HOME is an anti-human trafficking NGO dedicated to supporting and empowering migrant workers in Singapore. The team of volunteers offer direct assistance, shelter and free food to domestic workers struggling with abuse; as well as skills training and legal aid where necessary. Led by expat author Karien van Ditzhujizen, “Our Homes, Our Stories” is HOME’s first publication, and took just over a year to gather and complete.
The anthology comes on the back of other important, well-received migrant worker literature projects in Singapore. “Me Migrant”, a book of poems by foreign worker Md Mukul Hossine, and “Stranger to Myself”, a collection of stories and poems by construction worker Md Sharif Uddin, were published in 2016 and 2017 by Ethos Books and Landmark Books respectively. Both were inspired by the two men’s time working in Singapore.
All that said, it’s not all doom and gloom in the book. Also included are stories of supportive employers and the genuine love some of these women feel for the families they take care of; not to be eclipsed by the bad seeds. The book will be available for sale from Mar 11 at HOME and select bookstores in Singapore. You can also find out more about the authors who shared their stories at HOME’s dedicated blog here.