Kartini Today, Are Those Shackles Off?

A little history lesson from Indonesia, Kartini or also known as Raden Ajeng Kartini, was a prominent Javanese and an Indonesian national heroine. Kartini is known as a pioneer in the area of women’s rights for native Indonesians. For her roles in women’s rights Indonesian government declared April 21st as Kartini Day in 1964.

In many ways she was a woman before her times. She wanted women to have the freedom to learn and study. Kartini’s concerns were not just in the area of the emancipation of women, but also the problems of her society. Kartini saw that the struggle for women to obtain their freedom, autonomy and legal equality was just part of a wider movement. She detests polygamy and the use of religion to justify it. When I was in school we were taught about her and her heroism but honestly, I never heard about her religious objections until today from Wikipedia. She wrote “Religion must guard us against committing sins, but more often, sins are committed in the name of religion” WOW powerful isn’t?! I have found new respect for this woman! She did ‘fell’ for this polygamy practice by following her parents’ wishes to become someone’s third wife. Even more sadly is her ambitions were unrealized as a result of her premature death in 1904 at the age of 25.

Inspired by Kartini’s example, the Van Deventer family established the Kartini Foundation which built schools for women, ‘Kartini’s Schools’ in Semarang in 1912, followed by other women’s schools in Surabaya, Yogyakarta, Malang, Madiun, Cirebon and other areas. Letters to her Dutch friends then later published into a book titled Door Duisternis tot Licht (Out of Dark Comes Light) in 1911.

Indonesian women surely have come a long way from Kartini’s era but have we really break those shackles completely off? I can hear some feminist shouts in the background “Hell, yeah!” To be brutally honest, I don’t think we’re all there yet…Polygamy still exists to this very day in Indonesia. Kartini would surely have a heart attack with some of the religious fatwa issued by the clerics towards women here. Then there are that price tag plans for Indonesian women who wish to marry foreign men. So are we Indonesian has really been liberated? Some have successfully done so but there are still plenty who’s under the radar, whose lives aren’t so lucky.

Sexual discrimination, harassment and abuse remain prevalent in what is still largely a male-dominated society and corporate ethos. The chaotic living conditions in cities like Jakarta are also posing challenges to women as they are challenged with managing the stresses of work and home (I think all working mothers face this!). Women workers and managers are also constantly getting boxed in by stereotyping and a limiting of roles. For example, it is relatively common to find women in functions like human resources or finance but seldom in production or engineering although I have known some women engineers and high ranking positions in prominent companies but mostly these women are working for foreign company where they are being judged by their skills, roles and expertise not by their gender. Sadly, most state own or local companies still have a hard time in letting women be in charge or hold a key position.

Simple example…job ads here are mostly discriminating. Don’t believe me?

Understandably, sales support will deal with a wide variety of people, they represent the company but for me what’s inside the brain of that pretty face that’s more important than having a look of a supermodel! In my dream, ideally, job ads will concentrate more on skills and qualifications. More modern companies and sadly (yes I use this word too much!) it is usually foreign company who have dropped a the use of these terms of ‘attractive appearance & age’ factor as their most important requirements.

This is why I salute those modern day Kartini warriors’ women who still fights for equality in life also in religion. Kudos to you, ladies!




Lifestyle and travel blogger, founder of Single Moms Indonesia on a quest of finding joy in everyday life and living life to the fullest with kindness, compassion, grace and a bit of sass.

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  1. April 21, 2010 / 6:55 pm

    “Religion must guard us against committing sins, but more often, sins are committed in the name of religion”—WOW what an awesome statement!

    • Maureen
      April 24, 2010 / 8:32 pm

      Yes, I know I never heard of her statement about religion until when I google about her. Very powerful! Thanks for the visit 🙂

  2. April 22, 2010 / 8:12 am

    That is inspiring. Thanks for visiting my blog!

    • Maureen
      April 24, 2010 / 8:32 pm

      Thank you for your visit back & the comment 🙂

  3. April 23, 2010 / 11:59 pm

    Wow. This sure is an eye opening post….I can’t get over that ad!

    • Maureen
      April 24, 2010 / 8:33 pm

      Thanks for stopping by and yes I know the ads here sometimes drives me crazy especially since I’m over 30 *eye rolling*.

  4. March 7, 2011 / 6:49 am

    Why her statement of religion never been published in our history book. Maybe because our goverment concentrated in emantipation. But despite of her statement of religion and her emantipation dream, people or man tend to treat woman as secondary class. The ad is one of the example.

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