Feminism: 8 letters, 1 word, and a cavern of moving stories. My personal favorite is the story of Raden Adjeng Kartini. Kartini is a decorated national hero, who fought for the emancipation of women in the late 1800s and early 1900s. She was concerned with the lack of education girls in Indonesia were receiving, broke through the stereotype of women only being home-makers, and opened the very first primary school for women in Indonesia in 1903 (The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2020).
Kartini is the reason women in Indonesia are given opportunities in education and employment now and she is the reason that I myself have become a feminist. As a national hero, Kartini’s birthday is celebrated every year. However, the 21st of April is more than the birth of a hero, it is also the celebration of women all around Indonesia. The day marks the celebration of our past struggles, present contributions to society, and future victories.
Kartini day is an essential national day that should be celebrated by all, especially schools. In our school, Sinarmas World Academy, we celebrate Kartini day through performances and poetry that creatively depict Kartini’s struggles and how she catalyzed the feminist movement in Indonesia. As an Indonesian who had been disconnected from my “tanah air” due to living abroad for most of my life, I am honored to participate in a day dedicated to appreciating my Indonesian heritage. In our Bahasa Indonesia class, we recited poems written by Kartini herself. Even though we may not physically be in class and celebrate Kartini day as we normally would, our classes still strive to weave in little bits of celebrations here and there. It is an example of her impact in the field of education. This, in turn, allows us to appreciate the circumstances we are in today, even if they are still flawed and pushes us towards our journey of being life-long learners. Above all that, with the current COVID-19 pandemic no one is able to celebrate Kartini day properly. Nonetheless, we can still show our gratitude to females all around Indonesia, especially our dedicated healthcare workers.
In fact, I recently had the opportunity to interview a doctor from Eka Hospital BSD, working on the frontline to battle the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Vanessy Theodora Silalahi SpAn.KIC.Msc, was able to give me a glimpse of her day-to-day life amidst the pandemic.
“As a specialist in anesthesia and an intensive care consultant we are expected to carry out the same responsibilities as the men, even though we have children and family that we have to take care of at home.“
It would be hypocritical to assume that only female healthcare workers are struggling with this. This is a universal issue but under the theme of this article, it is important to highlight the sacrifices made by Dr. Silalahi and the millions of female healthcare workers all around the world.
In a time like this, women on the frontline battling this pandemic can be torn between fulfilling their duty as a doctor and as a mother. Dr. Silalahi has also mentioned the struggle of restraining herself from hugging and kissing her children as she is in contact with COVID-19 patients every day. The equilibrium of life has shifted. We can only hope that this is a temporary change and to do our part, we must support our healthcare workers by staying at home and staying healthy. This is one of the many lessons that Kartini has taught us, unity.
All in all, Kartini has used her privilege of having access to education to make a historical change for women’s rights in Indonesia and we can do the same. With our advantage of having so many different media platforms to communicate with our community, it is important to speak up for change, and equality. Even though we have progressed drastically from Kartini’s days, women are far from being completely equal to men. What we must remember is how far we have gone since Kartini’s time and how women like her have opened up the gates to women’s rights and equality. Efforts that will always be remembered and not be taken for granted, like Dr. Silalahi’s efforts, alongside the other women in healthcare. We can see how they embody and carry Kartini’s spirit. And through this spirit, Indonesia can and will overcome this COVID-19 pandemic.
Text is written by Sarah Florentine Sinartio, the Grade 11 Student at Sinamas World Academy