Kartini: An Inspiring Icon for Modern Women



By Dimas : For all Indonesian women every April 21st is definitely a day to celebrate ‘Hari Kartini’ a symbol of woman’s emancipation and gender equality movement in, from an inspiring Javanese lady Raden Ajeng Kartini.

Kartini was born on April 21, 1879 in Jepara, Central Java. She was the daughter of a royal family and her parents were Sosroningrat and Ngasirah. She was allowed to attend school until she was 12 years old. After which she was secluded at home, a common practice among Javanese nobility, to prepare young girls for their marriage.

During her seclusion, Kartini continued to educate herself on her own. She had also learned the Dutch language and often sent a letters to her friends in the Netherlands, including Rose Abendanon who became her close friend. From the correspondence she received much information of the women movement that was happening in the Western world.
Books, newspapers and European magazines fed Kartini’s interest and and fostered European feminist thinking. She was inspired to improve the conditions of indigenous Indonesian women, who had a very low social status at that time.

Kartini’s concerns were not only in the emancipation of women, but also other problems of her society. She saw that the struggle for women to obtain their freedom, autonomy and legal equality was just part of a wider movement she should make.

She was married to Raden Adipati Joyodiningrat on the 12 November 1903. Although this was against her wishes, she fully understood and accepted her marriage in concurrence with her ailing father. Fortunately, her husband completely understood her aims and allowed Kartini to establish a school for women in the east porch of the Rembang Regency Office complex. This was a groundbreaking step for women in Indonesia.
Kartini gave birth to her only son on 13 September 1904, and a few days later on 17 September 1904, Kartini died at the age of 25. She was buried in Bulu Village, Rembang.

Her movement though considered to be against the Javanese tradition was not in vain.With the support of colonial government, Kartini Schools were established throughout Java Island. Later in 1957, Indonesia announced the date of her birth be declared as Kartini Day.
Even today Kartini is inspiring and a true hero for many Indonesian modern woman. Happy Kartini Day!