Are the Indonesian women in the global diaspora the best
reflection of her spirit of independence?
That might seem to be the case as in the following pages IndoConnect talks to a special group of ladies, from very different backgrounds, who have scaled many heights in their work and personal lives – achievements and accomplishments that may not have happened if not for the inspirational efforts of Indonesia’s national heroine Raden Adjeng Kartini. She championed education and rights for women in Indonesia. On the annual Kartini Day 21 April 2016, the Indonesian Embassy in Singapore paid tribute with a ceremony and talk to mark her contributions towards women’s education, emancipation and empowerment.
The event was attended by 50 invitees, consisting of members of Dharma Wanita KBRI Singapura and Indonesian women diaspora in Singapore. Discussion on modern day Kartini, games, quizzes and bazaar of Dekranasda batik and products from small medium enterprises were showcased at the celebration.
Life & Legacy
Raden Adjeng Kartini was a Javanese noblewoman who pioneered Indonesian women’s rights. Her dream was to, “…make the acquaintance of a ‘modern girl,’ that proud, independent girl who has all my sympathy! She who, happy and self-reliant, lightly and alertly steps her way through life, full of enthusiasm and warm feelings; working not only for her own well-being and happiness, but for the greater good of humanity as a whole.”
She rightly saw education as the key to release the shackles that tied the native Indonesian women to a life mainly at home. Kartini was different from other girls at that time. Her father was a Javanese aristocrat working for the Dutch colonial government. This gave Kartini the opportunity to go to a Dutch school, at the age of six. The school opened her eyes to Western ideals. During this time, Kartini also took sewing lessons from another regent’s wife, Mrs Marie Ovink-Soer. Ovink-Soer imparted her feminist views to Kartini, and played a part in planting the seed for Kartini’s later activism.
In 1903, she opened the first Indonesian primary school for native girls that did not discriminate based on social standing. She corresponded with Dutch colonial officials to further the cause of Javanese women’s emancipation up until her death in 1904. She protested against the gender inequality of Javanese traditions such as forced marriages at a young age, which denied women the freedom to pursue an education. In 1911, a collection of Kartini’s letters, entitled From Darkness to Light: Thoughts About and on Behalf of the Javanese People was published. To Kartini, the ideal education for a young woman encouraged empowerment and enlightenment. The results of those efforts are celebrated annually by Indonesians on Hari Kartini.