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How She Survives Living in Jakarta

Updated on February 13, 2015

With a weathered duster in hand, a woman cleans the front windshield of a car that stopped for traffic light. After finished cleaning, she quickly asked for compensation from the driver of the car. According to Tuti, the duster woman, this is how she earns a living every day to support herself and her four children.

"Well, this is how I get money everyday. How else could I get money? My husband died a long time ago," said Tuti.

Tuti acknowledges that the work she does may not be very helpful to clean the cars while stopped at a red light. However, she could not do anything else to earn money. She had trouble getting a decent job because she only had junior high school diploma. She can’t sing on the street because she’s not confident with her voice. While to start a small business, she doesn’t have any money for business capital.

The 42-year-old woman then explains that after her husband, who worked as a truck driver, died five years ago, she is responsible to be the backbone of her family. Previously, she worked as a laborer in a shoe factory in the city of Bogor. However, after the factory went bankrupt, she had no job and forced to earn a fortune by dusting car’s windshield.

The idea to make money by cleaning the windshield with a feather duster comes from a friend named Mirah, who had already been operating in the same ‘occupation’. Although initially felt awkward, Tuti admits that she has accustomed to the work that she does now.

Despite the difficulties that she must face every day, Tuti doesn’t really earn much. Usually she only received 500 rupiahs (about 5 cent) for dusting a car. If there is a kind-hearted driver, sometimes she will receive 1,000 rupiahs.


Every day, Tuti is only able to collect 15,000 to 30,000 rupiahs, or about $2.5 to $5. She admitted that the amount is only enough to buy daily necessities. Luckily, her eldest son who had graduated from high school is now working as a laborer in a factory in North Jakarta, so he could also help Tuti in supporting her other children.

With the difficulties she experienced in Jakarta, Tuti admits that she actually prefers to go back to her hometown in Palembang than stay living in the capital of Indonesia. Especially, with the recent price increase on basic needs, living in Jakarta is even more difficult for poor people like her. However, moving back to Palembang is not an option since she doesn’t have enough money to pay for any kind of transportation expense for her and her whole family.

She can only hope that there will be a helping hand from the government official, such as capital assistance for building small business, so she and her family could have a more prosperous life. Tuti also added that without the help of others, poor people like her will be very difficult to change their fate.

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