Let’s just get to it. Raden Ajeng Kartini, is a national heroine for many women and girls in Indonesia. Why? Because she was ultimately devoted to the encouragement of education for young girls when Indonesia when it was still called the Dutch East Indies
Kartini was born into an aristocratic Javanese family, and in those days, girls are expected to be very family-oriented before marriage. Once you have a husband, you will practically be married into his family. So we definitely got a glimpse of what life was like for her back then to understand her motivations.
She went to a Dutch-language school which gave her the fluency to have pen pals that she could write to and express her thoughts. Therefore it is not only her vision that became her legacy, but her writing as well. So it was automatic for her to be accustomed to many books, and she became acquainted with European feminist thinking to realize that Indonesian girls at that time deserved a good-quality education despite their low social status.
However, at the age of 21, her parents arranged a marriage for her to Joyodiningrat, the Regency Chief of Rembang. He also had three other wives which gave me the reminder of how polygamy was very much widely accepted and not frowned upon. This, of course, wasn’t what she wanted but she, due to the love of her ailing father, agreed to his wishes.
No matter, Joyodiningrat was quite easy-going about it. He listened to her and understood her worries. So, he let her establish an all-girls school somewhere in Rembang’s office complex. Unfortunately, Kartini died soon after she gave birth to her only son in 1904 but her vision and what she strives for lives on to this day.
What really draws me into her was that she didn’t let her Dutch education get the best of her. Her knowledge didn’t establish any sense of superiority in her but the ability to see what could be better for people of her own country. That, to me is a sheer example of what open-minded is like; a value I swear by.
As an Indonesian in this fast-paced, technology and information-ridden world, being exposed to not only Western cultures but others is pretty much inevitable. Some may nod their heads at that statement or they might frown at it, but I don’t mind. I lacked almost 7 years of my life of living in my own country but now that I have been back, there is a hunger for me to learn more about Indonesia and contribute to its development in the future. I also want equal rights of education for girls, for them to achieve the highest levels of learning that they possibly. I do think that it’s okay for women to choose their own paths; whether as a stay at home mom or as a globe-trotter. As long as we get chance to voice out our aspirations.
For me there is nothing wrong with dousing yourself of all the knowledge in this world, but to always remember where we came from. Just like Kartini.
Selamat Hari Kartini, Wanita Indonesia.
Happy Kartini Day, my Indonesia, my fellow women. She lives in all of us.