Raden Ayu Kartini
by Levana from Jakarta
"No struggle, no victory; fight I will, Stella, for I will gain my liberty."
R.A. Kartini was a powerful and beautiful woman outside but a patriot inside. She used to be what every woman would dream of being, but still she saw through it all and fought for what she believed every woman, as well as every man could get, could be. There is so much of her to inspire any woman; her vision, her bravery and courage, her drive and also will power, which eventually brings us Indonesian women to be what we are now.
Raden Ayu Kartini was born from the Regency Chief of Jepara and one of his wives when Indonesia was still under the Dutch colony. At this time, polygamy was still a common and legalized practice among the nobility. Other traditions also shows women are somewhat alienated from education and freedom, such as prohibition to school and arranged marriages. Fortunately, Kartini was born into a family with a strong intellectual background. Her father allowed her to go to school until she was 12. Among other subjects, she managed to speak Dutch fluently. Here, following Javanese traditions, she was secluded in her own house to prepare herself for an arranged marriage.
During her seclusion, Kartini educated herself about liberty and education through Dutch books and magazines. The books shared Dutch feminists’ visions and opened her eyes to the many injustices and irrational traditions of her time. She then wrote many letters and acquired Dutch pen pals. In her letters to Rosa Abendanon and Zeehandelaar, she described her mission to educate and her dream to become a teacher in her own school for women. She also expressed criticism toward Qur’an traditions. She didn’t agree that Moslems had to memorize and recite Qur’an without actually understanding it. She also aroused questions about the justification of polygamy, which sabotaged women’s dignity and value.
At the age of 24, she was married to Rembang’s regency chief. She was the last of his four wives. Kartini died a premature death at the age of 25. Her struggle to educate women was continued by the Van Deventer family, who built ‘Kartini’s school’ in Semarang, followed by other womens schools across Java. Her letters were published as a book entitled ,"Habis Gelap Terbitlah Terang" (After Darkness Comes Light). Through her letters were the early principles of improving balance between men and women in Indonesia. Her strong voice and heart broke traditional barriers and showed what women were capable of.
Kartini is now one of Indonesia’s national heroines. The 21st of April is celebrated across the nation as Kartini day, because of her struggle to gain freedom for Indonesian women. Kartini inspired many people and bore a generation of educated and modern women. She inspires me not only because of her great service to our country but also her vision and bravery. When all the other women could only admire her entire life, she stood out and dared to fight for what she believed.