November 22, 2021, 05.07 PM
An illustration of heart-shaped rainbow flag. SHUTTERSTOCKAn illustration of heart-shaped rainbow flag.

She recalled being locked in a room and tied up, telling VOA Indonesian, “I decided to fight for my own freedom and run away to Jakarta.”

Oma Dona has not seen her family since 1975 when she arrived in Indonesia’s capital city. She was a sex worker for more than 30 years.

Also readRikky Muhammad Fajar Promotes Creative Community of Trans Women in Jakarta 

Hers is the story of many Indonesian trans women. Even though Indonesia, a majority Muslim country, does not criminalize transgender people, the group faces gender-based discrimination.

“Almost 80 percent of trans women come from rural areas,” said Mami Yuli, who is pursuing a doctoral degree in constitutional law at the University of Jayabaya while also managing her hair salon, among other pursuits.

Most trans women arrive in Jakarta without proper documentation, so they cannot obtain health care, social security, or jobs other than sex work, she said.

In May 2021, English began setting up the laundry remotely from her home in Gaithersburg, Maryland, after pushing through pandemic-related delays and administrative snarls. That same month she graduated magna cum laude and won the Bromer Peace Award from Hood because of her project.

English, who is fluent in Indonesian, found a suitable small space between a motorcycle wash and a building supply store in Depok. She paid a year’s rent in advance, bought a washing machine, a dryer, and other equipment, and paid for six months of utilities.

“Everything is already set up,” Mami Yuli said of the “miracle” laundromat that opened in August. “We just have to operate the business.”

Also readDigital Technologies Help Indonesian MSMEs Survive amid Pandemic

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