Kartini and Single Moms Indonesia

Last week our support group was invited to attend the Kartini movie premier.

It was our first invitation as a community and I couldn’t be more proud also thankful to Prudential Indonesia for having us.

Kartini The Movie


For my non-Indonesian readers, Kartini is a prominent female heroine of Java, Indonesia. In her short life, she managed to inspire and set forth the foundation for women’s emancipation movements in my country.

The movie has beautifully shown the traditional background that became her chains starting from the day she hit puberty. Her first period meant she must quit school and for her era, she was one of the lucky few who got to study as she came from an educated family. That came to a brutal halt when she hit that womanly milestone and must be ‘locked away’ from the outside world until she receives a proposal from a future husband. There in her family quarter, her elder brother introduced her to Dutch books and she eagerly read everything. Her mind expanded far beyond the walls that imprisoned her. She discovered her love for writing and managed to get some of her articles published in Holland.

The movie shows how hard a women’s life back then. Constrained by traditions, women were not only second-class citizens but pretty much has zero to no values other than to expand the patriarch hierarchy. The director also managed to capture the pain of women who had to marry men they do not love out of family arrangements also the bitterness of allowing their husbands to take other women as their concubines even third or fourth wives.

Kartini founded a school for women after she succumbed to the arranged marriage to a well-off man with several conditions dictated by her. Something women in her time never even imagine doing. The school was one of those conditions.

Unfortunately, her life was cut short probably by the poor maternal health care system in the early 1900s. She died only 4 days after giving birth to her son.

Kartini in Today’s World

As Kartini said in the movie, women’s life goals were to be someone’s wife back then. This statement hit me hard and made me sad for even today, in this modern era, there are plenty of Indonesian women whose ultimate life goal is to be married. That’s the end goal.

Often my heart aches when I read stories of how women must ‘dutifully’ stay in a marriage that not only physically abused them but emotionally killed them for the sake of not embarrassing the family. How it is the women’s responsibility to hold their families together no matter what.

Gender equality is still not completely any better these days. Yes, there are improvements but as we at Single Moms Indonesia experienced, society still treats us unequally at times for bearing our status.

We cannot change how the stereotype is perceived out there, we cannot change the way other people think or behave towards our status as single moms. The best we could do is focus on ourselves, on being the best single mother we could be, and on raising our children with as much love and compassion as we can. Then maybe one day, someday…those negative stigmas will change.” That’s all I could manage to tell our members when some began to complain about how unfair it is for us here.

Yes, I truly wish our country would change how it treats us, single mothers.

Maybe one day this country will pass a law that holds deadbeat fathers to become responsible for supporting their children. Maybe one day we will have a Child Support Agency to hold the divorce court orders accountable to these fathers. Maybe one day our school systems will have an official sexual education subject to prevent teenage or unwanted pregnancies that resulted in illegal abortions that put women’s lives at risk. Maybe one day more and more women will realize they hold an amazing power to determine the kind of life they wish to live. If women wish to be married then may they realize they deserve to have a happy healthy marriage where they are treated equally and with the utmost respect by their partner. If women wish to stay single or have a child outside of marriage may society stop judging her choices because it is her right as a human being to live the life she feels justly.

I still have plenty of wishes for my beloved country of Indonesia.

Thank you, Kartini for being the incredibly inspiring woman that you were. May Indonesia’s next Kartinis are rising and stand tall against inequality and keep breaking the glass ceiling!

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