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Asia's domestic helpers find ways to help themselves

Female migrants build skills, draw on experience to launch new careers

A Filipina migrant in a grocery she helped establish (Photo by Norman Gorecho/UN Women)

HONG KONG Yully is a published author of numerous essays and books, including a recent compendium of short stories, but she often has to furtively scrawl her thoughts on bits of toilet paper.

Each night, after her household chores are done, the Indonesian domestic worker must hide under a blanket to shield the light from the cellphone on which she painstakingly taps out her stories. Despite laws to the contrary, she is provided no "room of her own" in her employer's Hong Kong household, and sleeps beside her boss's grandmother. She uses a pen name to protect her identity and keep her job. For inspiration, she calls herself Arista Devi, which means "woman warrior goddess" in her language.

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