Our woman hero of April is Raden Adjeng Kartini! Kartini, who was born on 21 April 1879, is Indonesian national woman hero from Java. She was the first who fight for girls’ education and woman’s right in Indonesia. For those merits, 21 April is established as Kartini’s Day and is a national holiday in Indonesia.
Kartini came from an aristocratic Javanese family when Indonesia is still a part of Dutch colony of the Dutch East Indies. She attended Dutch language primary school and was able to speak Dutch, an unusual accomplishment for Javanese women at the time. She wanted to pursue higher education, but at that time that option was not available for Javanese girls. At the age of 12 Kartini was secluded, a common practice among Javanese nobility, to prepare young girls for their marriage. During seclusion girls were not allowed to leave their parents’ house until they were married, at which point authority over them was transferred to their husbands.
During her seclusion, Kartini kept learning by herself. She read books, newspapers and European magazines, and became interested in European feminist thinking. She acquired several Dutch pen friends and wrote to them. The letters expressed her concern on the conditions of indigenous Indonesian women, who at that time had a very low social status, her ideas and ambitions, and her hopes for support from overseas. Later on, her letters were collected and made into a book titled Door Duisternis tot Licht (Out of Dark Comes Light) and was published in 1911. The publication of her book was the starting of point of the change on how Dutch view native women in Java, and the women’s emancipation in Indonesia.
After her marriage on November 1903, Kartini’s fight for Indonesian women’s rights, especially Javanese, continued. Understanding her aim, her husband allowed her to establish a school for women in the east porch of the Rembang Regency Office complex. Sadly, on September 1904, only a few days after giving birth to her boy, Kartini died at the age of 25. But her legacy continued as the Van Deventer family established the R.A. 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
Kartini inspired us that everyone should have the same right to pursue education. That there is no such thing as education’s limit based on genders or ethnicities. Everyone could and should pursue education as high as they want!
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