April 21st or known as Kartini’s Day is a day where the Indonesian people celebrate Kartini’s birthday in order to respect Kartini who struggled on the women’s issues in Indonesia, especially the case of the women’s education and the Javanese culture.
Raden Ayu Kartini or known as Raden Ajeng Kartini, is a Javanese woman who fought for the Indonesian women’s emancipation. She also was known as a woman who struggled for the gender equality and women and independence.
Kartini was born on April 21, 1879, in Mayong, Central Java, Indonesia. She was born as a noblewoman. Her father was a Javanese aristocrat and her mother was only a daughter of a religious scholar and not an aristocrat. The difference on the social status made Kartini separated from her mother. Her mother could not live in pendopo, a Javanese large pavilion because she was not a noblewoman. She was allowed to live only in the back part of a home.
When Kartini proposed to nominate as a noblewoman, Kartini was being asked not to call her mother with “Ibu” (Indonesian call for mother), but “Yu” (a name for a servant in a palace). She refused it. Since the beginning, Kartini never wanted to be born in the middle of a noble family. She only wanted to live as people in general.
Kartini has a Dutch best friend, Marie Ovink-Soer, a wife of a colonial administration staff in Central Java. Kartini often expressed her feeling to Ovink-Soer, especially about the women’s condition who restrained by the culture and tradition. Ovink-Soer then introduces Kartini to the feminism. She also introduced Kartini to the feminist journals “De Hollandshce Lelie”. Kartini then wrote her hope that she want to have a correspondence friend from Netherland. Her wish then fulfilled. One of the post officers named Estella Helena Zeehandelaar responded and replied her letter. Kartini then easily expressed her feeling to Stella. She told Stella about the women’s condition where they are fettered and could not choose their own future. Kartini also noticed Stella about the Indonesian people who suffered from colonization, her fidgetiness on the religion, and also her cares on education. She also said that she did not like the European who often called Kartini and her sisters as “freule” which means princess or “Raden Ajeng”, differ with Stella who rarely called her as a noblewoman. That was why Kartini likes Stella.
Kartini wrote letters to Ovink-Soer and her Dutch schoolmates for struggling from isolation. She protested the gender inequality of Javanese traditions where women were forced to marry at their young age and could not pursue their education freely as men.
Tragically, with the desire to escape from isolation, Kartini then accepted a marriage proposal arranged by her father. She wed 26 years older man and already having 3 wives and 12 children, Raden Adipati Joyodinigrat, the regent of Rembang. Her marriage rushed her hopes to accept an offered to study abroad.
Committed to spreading the feminist, Kartini set her planning to start her own school for Javanese girls with her husband’s approval. Getting a help from the Dutch government, Kartini opened her first Indonesian primary school in 1903. The school was for native girls that did not discriminate the social status.
Sadly, in September 1904, Kartini died in the regency of Rembang. She died after giving a birth to her first child. Seven years later, one of her correspondents, J.H. Abendanon collected and published Kartini’s letters into a book, entitled “From Darkness to Light: Thoughts About and on Behalf of the Javanese People”.
In 1964, the first Indonesian President, Ir.Soekarno, decided Kartini as one of the National Independence Patriots and also determined Kartini’s birthday as a festal day. From that moment, Indonesian people celebrate Kartini’s Day on April 21. They celebrate it by having a contest such as cooking contest, tailor ship, and also fashion contest where people is wearing traditional clothes from any province in Indonesia.
Sources: What’s New Bali, Kompas.com, Bio., CNN Indonesia, Liputan6