What is Kartini Day Exactly?

I remember when I was in primary school. It was to be Kartini Day in a week’s time and all the kids were told that we must wear something traditional. The girls were told to wear kebaya.

“Just like Kartini!” my teacher said.

On another occasion, I was told off for playing the drum in the music room because “drums are for boys”.

Ironic isn’t it? Everyone remembers Kartini Day every single year without fail. Lots of women put on their kebaya to school, to work, to show the spirit of Kartini. However, have we downsized the spirit of Kartini to just “dressing up as her”? Have we really forgotten what she fought for? Do we actually know WHY we celebrate Kartini Day?

Every Kartini Day I wonder, what would happen if Kartini didn’t fight for our rights? What if she just took her privilege and enjoyed her life without a care in the world?

Whenever Kartini Day arrives and I hear children being obligated to wear kebaya by their teachers, I get really frustrated. She fought for our rights so we can have freedom, not to be bounded by rules!

Women’s rights in Indonesia still has a long way to go. Let’s not get blindsided by the dress up, but rather take Kartini Day as a reminder that there is still a long way to go for women in Indonesia to achieve what Kartini had in mind. We celebrate Kartini Day, so that we can continue what she started. So let’s put on our kebaya/trousers/dress/jumpsuit/whatever you want and do that for her, for our country, for Indonesian women.

9 thoughts on “What is Kartini Day Exactly?

  1. Yesss! I think we’re so lost in tradition and celebration that we forget what actually started this and her vision. The road is still long, but hopefully we’ll get there 🙂

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    • Yes! I have nothing against kebaya, cos I love it too, but when it’s only about the dressing up and forgetting her fight…well that’s when we need to relearn and re-evaluate Kartini’s vision for this country!

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  2. One of the things that irk me every time there’s a Kartini Day celebration is the fact that many places hold cooking competition. I’m not against cooking whatsoever, but there’s an underlying problem in this seemingly harmless tradition. Kartini fought for women’s rights, their rights to not be confined to household work only, but rather to actively participate in the society, to pursue their dreams whatever they might be. To have only cooking competition to celebrate Kartini Day is quite an irony.

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    • Oh I almost forgot about the cooking competition! Eurgh! I think if Kartini saw the way we celebrated her day, she would be really disappointed. There’s just a lot of misunderstanding about Kartini Day, I really think people should read again what Kartinj really fought for.

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  3. Sadly, it’s always been like that, and with the “Hari Ibu” as well. I’ve got nothing against celebrating your mother and all, but December 22nd is about another thing.

    This reminds me of a Danish documentary I have seen on TV recently when the crown princess was visiting Indonesia, campaigning for women’s health and hygiene and family planning and she was quite shocked to learn how many women were not allowed to use contraception because the husbands forbid them to do (Men don’t feel masculine enough if they don’t produce enough children, nevermind the poverty they’re sitting in). There are still a lot of issues with equality and womens’ rights in general and so much things to fight for, unbelievably, in 2020.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’d think in 2020 people would be more open minded about women’s rights but turns out we are still a long way from that. A lot of women (mostly because of influence from their family and religion) still think their “kodrat” is to serve men, which they happily receive without so much of a fight. It is difficult to change that kind of perspective since it’s so ingrained from generation to generation.

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  4. One thing that I always fail miserably each year is to read her letters compilation “Habis Gelap Terbitlah Terang.” If there’s one thing we could celebrate at the Kartini Day, I think read this should be one of the mandatory.

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  5. I think the challenge is to change traditional stigma in rural society that said how high the education of a woman, finally ended up in the kitchen. But I believe this stigma will disappear slowly if more people in rural area get education.

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