Rabu 24 Apr 2024 16:54 WIB

Kartini’s Legacy and a Long Road to Equality

Kartini is the country’s most important feminist figure.

Foto: Dok Republika

REPUBLIKA.CO.ID, Author: Rima Sundusita, Indonesian female diplomat who served at the Indonesian Consulate General in Melbourne

To many Indonesians, Kartini is the country’s most important feminist figure. She fought within her capacity as someone from a wealthy background, to advocate for other women’s basic rights during a time when it was extremely challenging for women to have access to education and healthcare. It is important to note that during the era of Dutch colonialization, women were still treated as second-class citizens in Indonesia. At the same time, between 1848--1920, in Western countries, the suffragette movement as the result of the First Wave Feminism had already fought a battle that was way ahead than any women in Indonesia, which was a struggle to a political right.

Kartini is more than just a national hero, but someone grandiose, the true epiphany of ‘power for a greater good’, born into an aristocratic family in 1879 and married to a local political figure. Yet, she paid close attention to her surroundings and noticed that social justice was such a big homework.

Kartini is the face of a responsible use of privilege. She understood that to acknowledge her privilege meant to accept the fact that she carried a responsibility to elevate the underprivileged. She comprehended that her privilege did not stop with her.

These days, because of Kartini’s legacy, women and feminists in Indonesia also enjoy the privileges of freedom of choice to determine their future.

The Relevance to Today's Society

Contrary to popular belief that feminism should be independent from male power, many Indonesian female powerful figures are still profoundly influenced by male figures around them, such as Megawati and Puan, who are the direct descendants of the first president of Indonesia, Soekarno. It happens everywhere, for instance, Bangladesh has Hassina who is the daughter of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the first Prime Minister of Bangladesh, and the United States has Hillary Clinton, who is the wife of ex-President Bill Clinton. To be associated with male power seems to be inevitable for female leaders in the world of politics.

However, under President Joko Widodo, Indonesia has made notable progress in empowering women to take the lead in politics. Under his presidency, more women have served as ministers, for example, Susi Pudjiastuti is the former Minister of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Sri Mulyani is the incumbent Minister of Finance and Retno Marsudi is the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Jokowi has had more female ministers than previous presidents. These women attained their esteemed positions without the aid of political families.

Indonesia has made also a significant increase in the contribution of women in many other areas over the last ten years. According to data from the Indonesian Statistics Centre, women make up 68,52% of Indonesians of working age; they contribute enormously to national growth. 71% of healthcare workers are women. Around 64% of micro, small and medium enterprises are owned and run by women. Indonesia has instituted a quota of 30% women for Parliament.

Specifically in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs itself, there is a significant increase in number of female diplomats; in 1986 it was only 10%, while in 2021, it had increased to 38%. In the Consulate General of the Republic of Indonesia in Melbourne, there are 4 women out of total 9 homestaffs.

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