She was once the face of abused maids in Hong Kong – imprisoned, starved and beaten so badly she lost control of her bodily functions.
But four years after her horrific ordeal made global headlines, Indonesian Erwiana Sulistyaningsih is a university graduate and fighting for the rights of domestic helpers in the southern Chinese city and beyond. Erwiana completed a degree in economics this month – the culmination of a dream that brought her to Hong Kong in 2013 before her life was turned upside down.
“Before I went to Hong Kong, I had been dreaming I could make enough money to study,” the 27-year-old told AFP from her home in Indonesia’s cultural capital Yogyakarta.
“After the incident, I thought I might have to give up on that dream.” Erwiana’s employer Law Wan-tung was jailed after pictures of her extensive injuries went viral in 2014. Widespread media coverage of Erwiana’s torture had one unexpected benefit – she was offered scholarships to study. “I’m happy but it’s bittersweet because even though I graduated university there are still many migrant workers who are persecuted and treated badly,” she said. She chose economics partly to understand “why so many people in this world have to migrate” for work.
“People should be able to live peacefully in their own country without having to work abroad unprotected,” she said.