Published:  12:36 AM, 13 May 2019

The children growing up in a 'motherless village'

The children growing up in a 'motherless village' Ely Susiawati with a photo of her mother. -BBC

In eastern Indonesia there are areas where almost all young mothers have gone to work abroad. Indonesians refer to these communities as the "motherless villages". Ely Susiawati was 11 when her mother left her in the care of her grandmother. Her parents had just split up and in order to provide for her young family her mother, Martia, took a job as a domestic helper in Saudi Arabia.

When I first met Ely, she was in her final year at school. She told me how miserable she had been after her mother left - and it was clear that the separation still hurt. "When I see friends with parents around at school it makes me very bitter. I long for my mum to come home," she said. "I don't want my mother to have to keep going away. I want her home, looking after my siblings."

In Ely's village - Wanasaba, in East Lombok - it's accepted that working abroad is something young mothers have to do in order to give their children a better life. Most of the men here work as farmers or labourers, earning a fraction of what the women can make as domestic workers or nannies overseas., reports BBC.

The village is made up of tightly packed houses close to the road, separated by alleyways just wide enough for motorbikes to pass and then behind them are seemingly endless rice paddies. When mothers leave, extended families and husbands step in to take on the childcare - and everyone here watches out for each other's children.

But it's painful for any child to say goodbye to a parent. Karimatul Adibia's mother left when she was one year old, so she cannot even remember a time when they lived together. It wasn't until she had nearly finished primary school that her mother was able to travel home to see her. But by this stage Karimatul looked upon her aunt, the woman who had raised her, as her mother.

"I was so confused," Karimatul says. "I remember my mum was crying. She said to my aunt, 'Why doesn't my daughter know she is mine?' Karimatul's aunt replied that they had no photograph of her, and that all Karimatul knew about her mother was her name and address, so it was no wonder she was finding it all hard to understand.

"I felt this overwhelming feeling that I had really missed her, but at the same time I felt kind of angry that she had left me since I was young," Karimatul says. Now, at 13, she video-calls her mum every night and they message each other often but it's still a difficult relationship.

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