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Husein Muhammad earned the name “Kyai” which means “venerated scholar” in Indonesian through his work in education. He is the principal of a large school in Indonesia, but his title comes also from his prolific research on various theological issues as an Imam. Husein studied in Cairo, but came back to Indonesia and took over the family business, a pesantren, which is an Islamic boarding school. His school is located in Cirebon. But not only has he served as the principal of this school, he has also founded several NGOs, including the Fahmina institute which is a faith-based initiative to mobilize civil society in Cirebon, and is a commissioner of the National Commission on Violence Against Women. His wife works in the regional government.
He began to interact with ideas of gender equality in the 1980s, and since has worked tirelessly on gender issues, among other human rights concerns. He has worked with reproductive rights and health, and, sometimes against opposition, empowered communities around Cirebon to fight for their rights. He has argued, in scholarly work, that issues of gender equality and women’s rights are not external to Islam. He was given the Trafficking in Persons Hero award in 2006 for his anti-human trafficking work in Indonesia. These efforts were primarily through a massive media campaign. He passed out over 22,000 leaflets a week in various mosques, and engaged in external programs to teach people about human trafficking. He has written scholarly materials on human trafficking and Islamic law, among various other women’s rights topics. By engaging the schools in his area, he has made some incredible headway in preventing and eradicating human trafficking.
In the 2014 TIP Report, Indonesia was listed as a Tier 2 Country. Indonesia is a source country, primarily, although it also is a destination and transit country. Indonesians are found all over the world in forced and bonded labor situations. There are an estimated 6.5 million Indonesians who are migrant workers abroad. Although the government has made substantial efforts to comply, there is more to be done.