This was not the view I expected when I learned I was going to be interning with Pinkcollar Employment Agency in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia this summer, but the global COVID-19 pandemic has changed the architecture of everyone’s lives. When I learned travel restrictions would be keeping me home, I indulged in a brief mourning period for one lost experience. Then I shook it off and prepared to embrace the new opportunity that I had been offered. While I would not be able to complete my internship in Kuala Lumpur as planned, I was determined to get the most out of my remote internship with Pinkcollar.
Pinkcollar is an ethical hiring agency cofounded by William & Mary Law LLM alumna Elaine Sim. Malaysia is one of the largest importers of labor in Asia. Women from neighboring countries such as Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Laos leave home to make a living in Malaysia as domestic workers. When these women arrive, they are often greeted with exploitation by their hiring agency or employer. Their passports may be taken, their wages held, their dignity stolen, because Malaysian employment law excludes domestic workers from the essential legal rights granted to other employees. Pinkcollar built a groundbreaking hiring model that combats this exploitation by offering an ethical alternative to the traditional hiring practice. In addition to advocating for policy changes that support domestic worker’s rights, they prioritize worker health and safety in their contracts, and incentivize employers to choose their ethical model by providing extensive training and services to their workers.
Being placed with Pinkcollar was a match made in heaven (i.e. Professor Warren’s office). I came to William & Mary with the intention of specializing in international human rights law. I have a particular passion for issues that affect women disproportionately, such as human trafficking, access to education, child marriage, sexual and domestic violence, and domestic worker’s rights. In addition, I had been to Kuala Lumpur once before in 2014 as part of a State Department funded trip to study sustainable development through urban planning and eco-farming. This internship was the perfect opportunity to engage with the inner-workings of a nonprofit in an area in which I hope to build a career and to deepen my understanding of Malaysia’s incredibly diverse culture.
My first two weeks interning with Pinkcollar have exceeded all expectations. My (remote) coworkers are amazing and the work has been challenging and fascinating. I’m thrilled by how much I have learned about Malaysian contract and employment law and Filipino employment law in a short period of time. After we discussed Pinkcollar’s needs and my interests, my supervisor Elaine constructed a ten-week schedule that detailed the weekly deliverables that I would be responsible for. My main project is the construction of termination procedures for employer/worker contracts which will protect the rights of workers and shield Pinkcollar and their partners from legal suits.
Lastly, when my internship became remote, I promised myself I would do everything I could to make it as educational as possible despite not being in-country. To this end, I asked my supervisor for book recommendations by Malaysian authors, as well as doing my own research. I now have a stack of books to further my understanding of the literature and history of Malaysia. My supervisor also sent me a recipe for one of her favorite traditional Malaysian dishes, beef rendang. I had to make a few changes based on what groceries I could get ahold of during a pandemic, including substituting chicken for beef and lime zest for kaffir lime leaves, but it was delicious! As the old saying goes, when life gives you quarantine, make chicken rendang.
It has been a wonderful, fascinating, challenging start to the summer and I can’t wait to see what the coming weeks hold.