Beyond the Personal in Sambas, Indonesia
Women Working across Borders
Author: Wendy Mee
Sambas, a regency in Indonesia's West Kalimantan Province, on the border with Sarawak (Malaysia), provides a distinctive borderlands perspective from which to evaluate the economic and social transformations that accompany Indonesian women's labor mobility. Drawing on village surveys and case studies about women's cross-border activities in Sambas, this article examines the complex intersection between women's working lives and economic sectors, including those conventionally labeled formal, informal, subsistence, and capitalist. The increasing involvement of young Indonesian Malay women in labor migration has also fostered new marital and familial patterns, which may in turn generate further shifts within the organization of cross-border work and family in the future. These changes illuminate issues of agency and precedence that arise out of local economic histories and family patterns of labor and labor migration. This analysis of both continuities and transformations in women's cross-border labor leads us to attend to women's creative engagement with the opportunities and constraints they face in reaching their personal and economic aspirations. One opportunity, this study shows, was women's proximity to an international border. This location they turned into an economic asset, one that harnessed the productive power of the border.