According to UNHCR, there are almost 14 thousand refugees registered in Indonesia, and likely many more who are unregistered.
Indonesia is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention, leaving refugees and asylum seekers with limited means to access protection, humanitarian assistance, education and livelihoods and no legal right to employment.
Women and children represent more than 60 per cent of refugees in Indonesia. Nimo, a refugee from Somalia, is one of them, and is determined to overcome the many barriers refugee women face in Indonesia.
Nimo is the co-founder of the Sisterhood Women’s Empowerment Centre in Jakarta, which runs skills training and wellbeing programmes for refugee women. The centre is run by refugee women as a way of restoring a sense of hope, dignity and resilience.
Nimo is also a community leader, a writer, volunteer teacher and interpreter. As a community leader she is currently supporting the Refugee Wellbeing Research Project being undertaken by HOST International in partnership with Refugee Trauma and Recovery Program at the University of NSW, SUAKA - The Indonesian Civil Society Association for Refugee Rights Protection, and the University of Gadjah Mada in Jakarta.
The study is supported by the Australian Research Council and seeks to understand the strengths and needs of refugees living in sustained displacement.
‘’I think the research is a really good opportunity for refugees in Indonesia to share their story about our condition living in this limbo life and what it does to our mental health,’’ said Nimo.
‘’This project is important for refugees in Indonesia because I have never seen any research or survey that focuses on refugee life trauma. I think through this project, we can send a strong message to the rest of the world about what may be helpful for refugee’s mental health and their future. I hope this will make the world and countries like Australia understand more about us.’’
During the Covid-19 restrictions, the women at the Sisterhood Centre have been agile in adapting, running classes online including English language, knitting and jewellery making. They have just added a fitness class to help promote mental and physical health, which is difficult to maintain in their circumstances.
‘’Being hopeful in my situation is very difficult,” said Nimo. ‘’But I am grateful that I’m still alive and breathing today in Indonesia because there is no gun and no one is shooting at me. At least I feel safe here.’’