Indonesian domestic helper Erwiana Sulistyaningsih said yesterday that she would not be travelling to New York for an event organised by Time to celebrate being named among the magazine's 100 most influential people in the world this year - as she cannot afford the trip.
Erwiana, 23, has gone from being the alleged victim of abuse at the home of her Hong Kong employer to being listed alongside Pope Francis, Russian President Vladimir Putin and American pop star Beyonce as a global big-hitter.
Former US National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, who fled to Hong Kong last year, also features on the list as a pioneer of efforts to expose a global surveillance system used by the United States.
Eman Villanueva, of the Filipino Migrant Workers' Union in Hong Kong, said Erwiana would not be attending the celebratory event because she could not afford the airfare or the cost of hotel accommodation.
" Time will not cover [the costs]," Villanueva said.
Erwiana released a statement yesterday saying that she hoped the recognition would mean governments and the world would pay more attention to the difficult conditions that migrant workers faced.
She said: "There are many workers and migrant workers who are oppressed. Hopefully, the governments and the UN can protect the workers so they will not become victims of abuse."
The magazine praised the former maid for speaking out and drawing attention to "the plight of a vulnerable and often invisible population".
The annual who's who makes its choices from around the globe in five categories: titans, pioneers, artists, leaders and icons.
Front and centre among this year's icons is Erwiana, who has been under the global media spotlight since January after she returned to her hometown in Ngawi, East Java, following months of alleged torture at her Hong Kong workplace.
She returned to the city on April 7 for a week to help police with evidence in the trial of her former boss, Law Wan-tung.
Law, 44, is charged with causing grievous bodily harm, assault occasioning actual bodily harm, common assault, and four counts of criminal intimidation against Erwiana and two other domestic helpers. Law is due to appear in court on Tuesday.