Did you know that heroines do not always come with a cape? In about a moment, you are going to read about one of the most famous and probably the first ever feminist in Indonesia. Can you guess? She's no other than Raden Ayu Kartini! Whose birthday we celebrate today as Kartini's Day. Let's read along!
Raden Ayu Kartini or R.A. Kartini was born in Jepara, Central Java on April 21, 1879. She was the daughter of Raden Mas Adipati Ario Sosroningrat (Jepara's regent) and M.A. Ngasirah (a religion teacher of a school in Jepara). She is known for her fight for the gender equality in Indonesia. The idea of gender equality started when she realized that she herself could not go further on her studies. When Kartini was only 12, she was forbidden by her father to continue her studies at Europese Lagere School (ELS) where she learned Dutch. Her father insisted that she must stay at home. During her stay, little Kartini started to do something. She wrote letters to her friends that mostly came from Netherlands. She then acknowledged Rosa Abendanon, who supported every plans Kartini made. It was from Abendanon also, that she started to read books and European newspapers. From those readings, she realized how European women can think greatly advanced. Thus, this new knowledge triggered something in her to fight for gender equality in Indonesia. Especially when later on she realized that she was not alone. Other Indonesian girls were facing the same problem as herself.
On November 12, 1903, when she was 24, Kartini was forced to marry Rembang's regent named K.R.M. Adipati Ario Singgih Djojo Adhiningrat. But her husband clearly understood Kartini's aspiration and allowed her to build a school for girls. During her marriage, she was blessed with a daughter. But she took her last breath 4 days after delivering her only daughter.
Her death, however, did not put an end for her fight. One of her friends in Netherlands, Mr. J.H. Abendanon collected her letters that have ever been sent to Europe. Abendanon then made them into a book that was titled Door Duisternis tot Licht, which then translated into “Dari Kegelapan Menuju Cahaya”. This book was published in 1911, and in the last edition, there was a new addition of a new letter from Kartini.
Her spirit continues to live on until now. Indonesians still celebrate her fight every April 21 in the day we call as Kartini's Day. Her story makes us realize that even when you're young and also a minority, you can make a change. The question is, are you brave enough to change something?
Written by: Natania Nainggolan