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In my shoes: Sewani’s story so far

Photo: Timothy Herbert/OxfamAUS

Read the life story of Sewani* , a 24 year old Indonesian footwear worker. You can follow Sewani’s blog here.

Sewani , a 24-year-old Indonesian footwear worker

Photo: OxfamAUS

My story so far

My name is Sewani.  I am 24-years-old.  I work in a factory producing a famous brand of sports shoes in an industrial district of Indonesia, not far from the capital Jakarta.

I was born on the island of Sumatra, the second child in a family of four children.  I have an older brother, a younger brother and a younger sister. 

My father passed away when I was 5 years old.  After my father died, my mother moved straight to Jakarta and worked in a leather shoe factory.  Along with my brother and sister I stayed living in Sumatra with my grandmother.  I graduated from high school in Sumatra in 2003.  After graduating from high school I followed in my mother’s footsteps and moved to Jakarta.

I hope that by sharing this story people can have some image of the workers that are making their shoes. Some image of who we are and what our lives are like. I’m sure our conditions are really different with those who can afford to buy the shoes we make. Who knows, when they understand our conditions, they might speak out for us. We also want to live in better conditions.

After two months of looking for work, I was accepted at a factory that produced a famous brand of sports shoes, in the sewing department.  At that time I was on a six month contract and later this was extended with another six month contract.  But before my second contract ended I was sent home and never called back to work.

To this day I have no idea why this happened; I was never formally notified that I’d lost my job or anything.  I just never heard back.

After that I lived for two years in as a domestic worker overseas (more about my working life).  While the wages were much better than in Indonesia, the migration agency fees took a long time to repay.  I also found it difficult and expensive living away from home.  Also there was no way of return if my mother fell sick or anything happened to my siblings.  So in 2007 I came back to Indonesia and have since been living with my mother and my sister in a small rental home.

In 2007 I managed to find work in a factory— once again producing shoes for the famous sportswear brand.  To begin with I was working in the sewing section, I found my work manageable.  But since the time I participated in a small demonstration to ask for better wages I have been treated harshly by factory management.  My boss treats me like I’m of no value.  Every day I am moved between work stations and if opportunities for better work arise I am never offered the chance to take them.

But I still have hope in my workplace because I’m not alone.  There is a union that really supports me, gives me enthusiasm and help when I need it.

Find out more

Read more about Sewani’s working life.

* Sewani is a shortening of the Indonesian ‘seorang wanita’ which translates to ‘a woman’. Sewani is a pseudonym. My real name cannot be disclosed out of concern for the safety and privacy of my family, as well as my job security.  But everything else disclosed on this page and my blog is an accurate representation of my life.