Women’s History Month: Wonder Women that Help Shape Indonesia

Hi everyone!👋 So March is Women’s History Month, which is something I just found out mid-March because we don’t celebrate it in my country, which is sad. But that doesn’t mean that I can’t participate in celebrating women’s history month! I’ve seen a lot of stories about amazing women around the internet throughout the internet during this month, so I want to share with you some amazing women from my country, Indonesia. These women help to shape Indonesia into what it is and played important role in Indonesia’s history. This post might feel like reading a text book, but bear with me because studying about them are really interesting. Also, you got to know these amazing women from Indonesia better 🙂 Without further ado, let’s just get right into it.

Women’s right and education: R.A Kartini and Dewi Sartika

220px-collectie_tropenmuseum_portret_van_raden_ajeng_kartini_tmnr_10018776Kartini is definitely the most famous woman in Indonesia. She’s a pioneer for education for women’s education in Indonesia. In Indonesia, there’s this value that women don’t have to have high education because their main task is to taking care of the house. Kartini was born of Javanese aristrocatic family, giving her more access and privilege than usual. Her father was also more lenient, but this doesn’t mean that she can continue her education. She only studied until she was 12 years old, before she entered pingitan state, in which girls can’t leave their house or meet anyone until they are married. During this time, she kept communicating with her Dutch friends, which opened her eyes of how different women in Europe and Indonesia. She also read a lot. When she finally got married, luckily her husband support her goals. She created school for women in her town, Rembang. Sadly, she died because of childbirth at early age of 25 years old.

Her letter and ideas, which have great influence in Indonesia, were compiled into a book titled Habis Gelap Terbitlah Terang (eng: Out of Darkness to Light). To honour her, her birthda220px-dewi_sartikay, 21st April, is nationally celebrated as Kartini Day.

Dewi Sartika may not be as famous as Kartini, but she’s also a pioneer in women’s education. Like Kartini, she didn’t receive much formal education, but she also created school for women in her town, Bandung, in 1904. After only 16 years, in 1920, all cities and regencies in West Java had one school. She died in 1947 during the independence war.

The school they made is not school for education like for men, but it’s more of school to do domestic things, like cooking and sewing. Even though it may not seem like much, their effort and initiatives allow women to receive further education, even though it may seem like only for domestic things.

Fighters: Cut Nyak Dien and Martha Christina Tiahahu

Most of our national heroes who fight during the independence war are men, but that doesn’t mean that women didn’t do anything. To give you a bit background: Indonesia was colonized by the Dutch (ever heard of VOC? maybe from Pirates of Caribbean?) for 350 years, in which they had given us up to the British for 5 years (EIC and Thomas Stamford Raffles anyone?) before took us back and finally, gave us up to the Japanese for 3.5 years before they lost the World War 2 and we declared our independence. During these colonialization time, our money and resources were squeezed out, which was why a lot of us trying to fight back. We even burned a city to avoid it being took over by the Dutch.

220px-cut_nyak_dhien_portraitCut Nyak Dien was an Aceh guerilla leader during Aceh war. She first got involved in the war as civillian, but after her first husband, Teuku Ibrahim died by the Ducth, she swore revenge. She got married again to Teuku Umar (another famous Indonesian hero, he was on the 1980s money), with one condition: he allowed her to fight. Together they boost the morale of the people, and lead the guerilla through the Aceh’s forests. When Teuku Umar was killed, she didn’t despair and continue the resistance with all the resources she had left. Unfortunately, as she got older, she suffered from near-sightedness and arthritis. She was captured in the end, but her daughter escaped and continue her resistance. She was exiled and died in West Java. To honour her, the government awarded her National Hero title posthumously and there’s an airport in Aceh named after her. She’s also featured on the 10.000 rupiah bank note, which we still use until now.

220px-martha_christina_tiahahu_1999_indonesia_stampMartha Christina Tiahahu may died young, at only 18 years old, but she participated in a lot of battles. She is a fighter from Malacca, an island known for its spices, which is also why the colonials tried so hard to control it. She joined her father in guerilla when she was 17 years old, and give backup for Pattimura, another national hero (he’s still on our money). Her troops succedeed in killing a Dutch commander and burning their main fortress, the Duurstede. She was captured twice, in which the second time she fell sick, refused food and medication, and died on the way to the exile.

Government: Megawati Soekarnoputri, Sri Mulyani and Susi Pudjiastuti

220px-president_megawati_sukarnoputri_-_indonesiaMegawati was our fifth president (we’re currently on our 7th) and our first female president. Some might argue that she was only elected because she is Soekarno’s daughter, which is our first president and the most famous hero of them all (he’s the one that lead the fight and declared our independence, also our first president). While her presidency wasn’t remarkable, she managed to stabilize our political and economical situation, after 1998 monetary crisis, fall of new order, short interim of BJ Habibie and impeachment of Gus Dur. I noticed a pattern in the world where women are given important job when there are a lot at stake (Theresa May after Brexit and Marissa Mayer with Yahoo!), but Megawati truly did her job. You don’t need to be Indonesian or know about politics to know how disastrous the situation was when she first came to the office. She had tried to run for presidency again for several times after her presidency, but so far she hasn’t succeed.

220px-foto-mk-smi_001As for Sri Mulyani, she was our minister of finance during SBY, our 6th president. I think she did an amazing job with her position, but some people tried to bring her down by involving her in a corruption scandal. But being the unstoppable amazing woman she is, she decided to step down and accept position as director at the world bank. Currently, she’s back in Indonesia and serve under the 7th president as minister of finance again. Our 7th president, Jokowi, is known for his continuous cabinet reshuffle, but so far, she held on. When your government offer you the same position twice, never got reshuffled and the world bank also offered you a position, you know you’re good.

220px-susi_pudjiastutiSusi Pudjiastuti is currently the most famous minister in Jokowi’s cabinet. She’s the minister of maritime affairs, and known to take no shit from anybody. She was expelled from school for protesting the new order’s rule and actually stared at the bottom working at fish factories. She grows her business until she can export her seafood to Asia and America, and expanded to the aviation industry. She’s not your ordinary minister. As I said, she was expelled from school; much of her knowledge come from her experience not education; and she’s also has a tattoo and known as a chainsmoker. But do not mess with her, because she’s strict and she’s actually take action against illegal fishing in Indonesia. In 2016, 2 years after assuming office in 2014, she already sunk 151 ships that stole fish from Indonesia. She’s also really humble, known to eat street foods and other shenanigans the elites usually don’t do.

Have you ever heard any of these women? Do you have any amazing woman for your country? Share them in the comments below! 🙌



10 thoughts on “Women’s History Month: Wonder Women that Help Shape Indonesia

  1. I’m so sad that I’ve never head of these women. They sound amazing and they’ve done such a great impact in history. Thanks for sharing ❤ In Puerto Rico there's this poet and renowned feminist called Julia de Burgos who I really look up to. 🙂


  2. This is AWESOME! I’m sad that I haven’t heard of these amazing women, but I am SO glad that I have now! I particularly like your stories about Kartina and Sartika — promoting education, particularly for women, is something that I have always felt passionate about (and almost made a career out of!) I have a HUGE amount of respect for women who do the kinds of things that they did!


    1. Thank you Michelle! It might not seem much compared to what we have now, and what the rest of the world was doing at that time (while you guys already struggling for your voting rights, we’re still struggling to have education) but without them, us women will have nothing! So yeah, we’re really thankful of them! ❤


  3. Love this post, Tasya! There are so many admirable women in Indonesia, and I wish we have more of their stories. Thanks for giving them the spotlight! 😀


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