Erwiana Sulistyaningsih

Erwiana Sulistyaningsih TIME 100
Illustration by Michael Hoeweler for TIME

The migrant worker who fought back

In 2013, like hundreds of thousands of other migrant workers, Erwiana Sulistyaningsih moved to another country (Hong Kong) in hopes of a better tomorrow. Just eight months later, she returned to her native Indonesia covered in burns, bruises and open wounds, struggling to see and barely able to walk. Erwiana shared that she endured months of torture at the hands of her employer, a 44-year-old mother of two, who told Erwiana that her family would be killed if she did not perform her duties. Nor was Erwiana paid; when she was sent home, she had $9 in her pocket.

But Erwiana could not be broken, nor could she be silenced. She spoke out against the woman, who faces charges including causing grievous bodily harm and common assault, and with the support of family Erwiana is advocating for better laws to protect others who may share her fate, placing a spotlight on the plight of a vulnerable and often invisible population. It is brave women like her who speak up for the voiceless who will create lasting change.

Mam is an antitrafficking activist and a co-founder of the Somaly Mam Foundation

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