Kartini's Day. Actually Kartini's Day is similar to Mother's Day (celebrated in Indonesia on December 22) or International Women's Day. Perhaps to understand Mother's Day you need to understand a person in your life called Mother, and for the International Women's Day and Kartini's Day perhaps you need to understand the person in your life called wife or sister. If you are underestimating women then firstly you need to look at your mother. Am I wrong?
In short: That is all for women. In wider meaning: That is how these special Day to further raise the awareness of Indonesian society or even the world - especially the women themselves - about women rights, their struggle for equality, and their important role in various spheres of life. This is also an occasion for Indonesian women to review how far their struggle get acknowledgment especially from the point of view of Indonesian traditional society who live in rural areas.
Kartini's Day is taken from the name Raden Ajeng Kartini, a heroine for the emancipation of Indonesian women during Dutch colonial. In 1964, President Sukarno declared Kartini's birth date, April 21, as Kartini's Day. This decision has been criticized by some historical observers. They argued that Kartini was selected by the Dutch to be displayed in front as a heroine for the advancement of native Indonesian women. They also argued that we take over Kartini as a symbol of Indonesian women emancipation from the Dutch people - why not Ratu Safiatuddin Taj ul-Alam from Aceh, or Dewi Sartika from Bandung, or Rohana Kudus from Padang. However, the commemoration of Kartini's Day still continue until today. But that's not the focus in this post because, for me, all the heroines can be an inspiration for Indonesian women to go ahead, right?
In the era of Kartini, the condition of Indonesian women was very marginalized and stuck in the system that are culturally, economically, socially, and politically, didn't take sides to women. Ordinary women were not allowed to school, become leaders, even did not have the freedom to choose a husband. This is worsened by the norm in the society that considers women's role only take care of home, children, and be a good wife and obedient to her husband. Within the circumstance, Kartini didn't give up and lament the situation. She was determined to elevate her people from ignorance and poverty. Kartini also known as a pioneer for the rights of indigene women at that time, in order to raise the dignity of women from the pit of contempt. Eventually Kartini had founded schools for her fellows Indonesian.
She keep maintained her spirit, ideas, thoughts and ideals through the letters that she sent to her friends in Netherlands. Kartini's letters much says about the independence of the Indonesian nation, education for women, and gender equality. Brilliant thoughts that goes beyond her age and era, even still relevant today and become the inspiration for many people. After Kartini died, Mr J. H. Abendanon (Minister for Culture, Religion and Diligence in the East Indies) collect the letters that Kartini had sent to her friends. In 1911, the collection of Kartini's letters published in a Dutch-language book titled Door Duisternis tot Licht, and then translated into English titled Letters of a Javanese Princess (click this link to read it). The book also published in Indonesian language with the title Habis Gelap Terbitlah Terang. After publication, the book attracted great interest in the Netherlands and Indonesia. Her ideals also provided inspiration for prominent figures in the struggle for Independence.
Whether Kartini's spirit and ideals has been perceived by most women in Indonesia today? I see Indonesian women now are getting a lot of progress. Many women have become important persons in many companies and organizations, work as teacher, lecture, researcher, politician. The law has set 30% the number of women in the House of Representative and in the stewardship of political parties (unfortunately there are no sanctions for violator). Even former President of Indonesia Megawati Sukarnoputri was a woman.
Nonetheless, the spirit of Kartini has not been felt in hinterland or rural areas where many women not yet get a decent education or not going to school at all. Sometimes that's not because the government did not build a school there, but also because of the stigma in society who still assumes that whatever is achieved by women in education and career, finally after married ended up in the kitchen. Domestic violence remains a scourge for most women in Indonesia. Why? That is because many women are still very dependent to her husband financially. Especially after having children they almost had no bargaining power, helpless to act or take legal action. Fear of the future of children is often a major reason for women to survive in misery, even willing to become migrant workers abroad.
Note: Image of Kartini was taken from Wikipedia under Creative Commons license with attribute to Tropenmuseum of the Royal Tropical Institute.