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Five Indonesian heroes – an introduction



On Tuesday (19 April 2016), in the lead up to Kartini Day, staff and volunteers at Mitra Wacana held a discussion about their female heroes. Five of the women we discussed were from Indonesia. Kartini was mentioned, of course, and also freedom fighter Cut Nyak Dien, workers’ rights activist Marsinah, and politicians Megawati Sukarnoputri and Tri Rismaharini. For the foreigners in the discussion, it was the first time they had heard of some of these women. Here is a brief overview of each woman’s struggles and achievements.

Cut Nyak Dien (1848 – 6 November 1908)

Cut Nyak Dien’s efforts in the resistance to Dutch colonial power are well known in Indonesia. Born into a noble family in the Kingdom of Aceh, she fought against the Netherlands during the Aceh War from 1873 to 1904. Her first husband and father of her first child was killed on 29 June 1878. Cut Nyak Dien vowed to lead the resistance against the Dutch and avenge her husband’s death. She married another resistance fighter who was also killed in 1899. Cut Nyak Dien continued the fight until, as an elderly woman with physical ailments such as poor vision, she was captured by the Dutch and imprisoned in West Java. She continued to communicate with resistance fighters until she was exiled to Sumedang, West Java. There she taught the local community about Islam until her death from natural causes in 1908.

She features on the 10,000 rupiah note and was declared a National Hero of Indonesia by Presidential Decree on May 2, 1964. She is revered for her leadership at a time when women were expected to be subordinate to men.

Raden Adjeng Kartini (21 April 1879 – 17 September 1904)

RA Kartini was an early Indonesian feminist. As the daughter of a Javanese aristocrat, she was allowed to get a primary education however, like most aristocratic women at the time, her father did not allow her to continue on to high school. For Javanese people, secondary education was excluded to aristocratic males. Javanese people from lower social classes usually received no education at all. She expressed her views about the emancipation of Indonesia from Dutch colonial rule and women from confinement to domestic roles in her letters to friends in Europe. She opened the first school for Javanese girls of all social classes. Sadly, she died while giving birth to her first child.

Her birthday is commemorated nationally every year. This tradition started under the New Order and was used as a way to promote femininity and domestication of women. Today organisations such as Mitra Wacana are working to promote Kartini’s thoughts on freedom and equal opportunities for all genders and social backgrounds. [For further reading about Kartini, search ‘Kartini’ on Mitra Wacana’s website].

Marsinah (10 April 1969 – 8 May 1993)

This is an infamous case of the murder of an innocent woman, which is believed to be in relation to her participation in workers strikes. She worked at a watch manufacturing company in East Java. The workers went on strike after the company did not increase their wages in accordance with a circular from the Regency Governor. When the company finally agreed to the workers’ demands, Marsinah participated in the negotiations. Days later, Marsinah was discovered dead in a rice field. Her body showed signs of torture and rape.

In 1994, managers from the factory where Marsinah worked were convicted of her murder, however it is widely believed they were tortured into making false confessions and the local military were actually responsible. Later Indonesia’s National Human Rights Commission found a number of irregularities in the process, and in 1995 all the defendants were released. Successive governments reopened her case however it was never resolved.

Marsinah has been upheld as an inspiration for the workers’ struggle in Indonesia.

Megawati Sukarnoputri (23 January 1947 – )

Megawati, as she is usually known, was the first female president of Indonesia (serving from 2001 – 2004). She was elected to Indonesia’s national parliament, the People’s Consultative Assembly, in 1987. She became the head of the Indonesian Democratic Party, PDI, in 1993 however was removed in 1996 by then-President Suharto. In 1998, Suharto resigned as president. In October that year, Megawati and her supporters founded the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, known locally as PDI-P. They won 34 percent of the vote in the 1999 parliamentary elections, however Megawati was not chosen as president. Abdurrahman Wahid (known as Gus Dur) became president and persuaded Megawati to stand for vice-president. On 23 July 2001, the People’s Consultative Assembly elected Megawati as president of the Indonesian Republic.

Her critics say her presidency was a birthright as the daughter of the first president of the Republic of Indonesia, Sukarno, however others credit Megawati with stabilising Indonesia and overseeing its path to democracy.

Tri Rismaharini (20 November 1961 – )

“Risma” is the current mayor of Surabaya, the second largest city in Indonesia. She has held office since 2010. She trained as an architect and city planner and has famously applied that knowledge to transform the city of Surabaya. Where once the river was a dumping ground for rubbish, houses now face on to it and families can enjoy picnics on its banks. She has also improved drainage systems and water catchment areas to reduce flooding in Surabaya, which anyone who has lived in Indonesia during wet season will know is a major issue. In July 2014 she shut down Dolly, one of southeast Asia’s largest red-light districts. She is a member of Megawati’s PDI-P.

Her impact is visible in the transformation of Surabaya which she has led and fought hard for. Her work is commended globally and she was nominated for the World Mayor Prize in 2014. Many Mitra Wacana team members agree she is a modern day Kartini.


Andrew Casey, 19 April 2002, Megawati Reopens Marsinah Case, Workers Online http://workers.labor.net.au/132/news95_indon.html (accessed 21 April 2016)

BBC News, 3 July 2004, Profile: Megawati Sukarnoputri http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/1452246.stm (accessed 20 April 2016)

Benjamin Waters, The Marsinah Murder, Asia Pacific Solidarity Network http://asia-pacific-solidarity.net/southeastasia/indonesia/publications/doss1/marsinah.htm (accessed 21 April 2016)

Brackenridge Berry Farm Blog, 22 January 2016, Biography Cut Nyak Dien – National Hero of Indonesia Origin Aceh http://brackenridgeberryfarm.com/biography-cut-nyak-dien-national-hero-of-indonesia-origin-aceh/ (accessed 21 April 2016)

Correspondent(s) [translated by James Balowski], 7 May 2012, Indonesia: Statute of limitations on Marsinah murder case expires next year, Europe Solidaire Sans Frontières http://www.europe-solidaire.org/spip.php?article25162 (accessed 21 April 2016)

Editorial, 8 May 2013, Marsinah’s unfulfilled dream, The Jakarta Post http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2013/05/08/editorial-marsinah-s-unfulfilled-dream.html (access 21 April 2016)

Editors of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, Acehnese War – Southeast Asian History http://www.britannica.com/event/Acehnese-War (access 21 April 2016)

Editors of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, 16 October 2015, Megawati Sukarnoputri – President of Indonesia http://www.britannica.com/biography/Megawati-Sukarnoputri (accessed 20 April 2016)

Fatkhul Khoir, 08 March 2010, Marsinah: An Inspiration For the Working Class Struggle, In Defence of Marxism, http://www.marxist.com/marsinah-inspiration-for-working-class-struggle.htm (accessed 21 April 2016)

Harry Jacques, 15 January 2015, How Surabaya’s mayor stand up for sex workers, students and rare animals, The Guardian http://www.theguardian.com/public-leaders-network/2015/jan/15/mayor-surabaya-indonesia-tri-rismarahini (accessed 19 April 2016)

Hendri Yulius, 21 April 2016, Kartini: Between Islam, nation-building and feminism, The Jakarta Post http://www.thejakartapost.com/academia/2016/04/21/kartini-between-islam-nation-building-and-feminism.html (accessed 21 April 2016)

Indra Harsaputra, 15 Feb 2014, Tri Rismaharini: Madame mayor iron fist, tender heart, The Jakarta Post http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2014/02/15/tri-rismaharini-madame-mayor-iron-fist-tender-heart.html (accessed 19 April 2016)

Jewel Topsfield, 20 April 2016, Feminism in the spotlight as Indonesia celebrates Kartini Day, The Canberra Times http://www.canberratimes.com.au/world/feminism-in-the-spotlight-as-indonesia-celebrates-kartini-day-20160420-goalp2.html?skin=text-only (accessed 21 April 2016)

Muklas, 14 February 2012, Cut Nyak Dien (1848 – 1908) Women’s Steel Watch Aceh, History of Indonesia http://first-history-indonesian.blogspot.co.id/2012/02/cut-nyak-dien-1848-1908-womens-steel.html (accessed 21 April 2016)

Sasi, 21 February 2008, Woman hero: Cut Nyak Dien, My Hero http://myhero.com/hero.asp?hero=Cut_Nyak_Dien_stursula_ID_2008_ul (accessed 21 April 2016)

Stephen Sherlock, 11 November 1999, Indonesia’s New President: Continuity, Change and the Problems Ahead, Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Group http://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Parliamentary_Departments/Parliamentary_Library/Publications_Archive/CIB/cib9900/2000CIB10 (accessed 20 April 2016)

The New York Times, 20 October 2004 For Megawati, the legacy is mixed, http://www.nytimes.com/2004/10/20/world/asia/for-megawati-the-legacy-is-mixed.html (accessed 20 April 2016)

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Apakah Perempuan Amerika dan Indonesia Sangat Berbeda?



oleh Jacqueline Lydon – Volunteer di Mitra Wacana

Saya tumbuh dan besar di Amerika, saat ini tinggal di Indonesia sudah lima bulan, dan sudah tiga bulan ini magang di Mitra Wacana, saya terkejut ternyata adanya kesamaan kondisi antara perempuan di Indonesia dan Amerika.

Kalau dilihat sekilas, perempuan Amerika dan Indonesia mungkin memiliki perbedaan yang sepenuhnya berlawanan. 

Saat membandingkan keduanya, biasanya orang-orang fokus pada perilaku dan penampilan perempuan. Perempuan dihakimi tentang cara mereka berpakaian, cara mereka bertindak, dan betapa independennya mereka, misalnya. 

Orang Amerika mungkin menilai perempuan Indonesia berpakaian konservatif, tinggal di lingkungan rumah tangga, dan tampaknya tunduk pada suami mereka. Sementara itu, orang Indonesia mungkin menilai perempuan Amerika tidak menutupi tubuh mereka, merangsang secara seksual, tidak fokus pada peran domestik, atau terlalu keras dan menuntut.

Apa yang saya catat sejak berada di sini adalah yang pertama, bahwa perbedaan-perbedaan ini kurang terlihat daripada yang saya pikirkan, dan kedua, bahwa mereka tampaknya berasal dari budaya dan norma sosial yang berbeda. Ada berbagai cara untuk memahami gender dan peran gender, namun perempuan di Amerika dan Indonesia menginginkan keamanan, rasa hormat, dan memiliki suara.

Ada banyak kesamaan antara perilaku dan masalah perempuan di kedua negara.

  • 51,9% perempuan Indonesia adalah pekerja, dibandingkan dengan 57,1% perempuan Amerika.
  • 17,4% dari parlemen Indonesia adalah perempuan, dibandingkan dengan 23,9% dari legislatif Amerika.
  • Perempuan Indonesia terpilih pertama kali sebagai presiden pada tahun 2001, sementara belum ada seorang perempuan yang pernah menjadi presiden di Amerika.
  • Perempuan pertama yang bergabung dengan mahkamah agung Indonesia, Sri Widoyati Wiratmo Soekito, dilantik pada tahun 1968, sedangkan perempuan pertama yang bergabung dengan mahkamah agung Amerika adalah Sandra Day O’Connor pada tahun 1981, sekitar 15 tahun kemudian.

Ada banyak masalah — dari pelecehan seksual hingga pemerkosaan — yang memiliki dampak luas pada perempuan di kedua negara, tetapi sulit untuk memiliki statistik yang akurat karena banyak perempuan tidak (atau tidak bisa) melaporkan insiden ini.  Tetapi berdasarkan apa yang dilaporkan, jelas bahwa ini adalah masalah utama di kedua negara. 

  • 3 dari 5 perempuan Indonesia dan 81% perempuan Amerika telah mengalami pelecehan seksual
  • 15% perempuan Indonesia dan lebih dari 1 dari 3 perempuan Amerika melaporkan menjadi korban kekerasan seksual atau pemerkosaan 
  • 16% perempuan Indonesia dan sekitar 25% perempuan A.S. telah melaporkan menjadi korban kekerasan pasangan intim (kekerasan fisik, seksual, atau psikologis dari pacar atau pasangan)


Dua negara dengan sikap dan perilaku perempuan dilihat sangat berbeda, mengejutkan bahwa ada persamaan keberhasilan dan perjuangan perempuan. 

 Baru tahun lalu, sebuah jajak pendapat di Amerika menemukan bahwa hanya 29% perempuan Amerika yang mengidentifikasi sebagai feminis. (Feminis: seorang yang percaya laki-laki dan perempuan harus punya hak sama). Di kedua negara, ada gerakan feminis dan anti-feminis (di Amerika, “meninism”; di Indonesia, “Indonesia tanpa feminisme”). Dalam kedua gerakan tersebut, suara perempuan ditekan; perempuan yang mengadvokasi diri mereka sendiri sering dianggap terlalu menuntut, dan masalah mereka diabaikan.

Mengapa ada begitu banyak penilaian untuk pilihan perempuan di kedua negara?

Sebagian dari hal tersebut didasarkan pada stereotip, yang terus dibangun tentang perempuan yang bertindak berbeda. Perempuan di setiap negara diajarkan bahwa peran budaya, perilaku, dan nilai-nilai mereka adalah pilihan yang lebih baik, dan jika mereka berpegang teguh pada itu, mereka akan menghindari masalah yang dihadapi oleh perempuan dalam budaya yang berbeda. Misalnya, untuk perempuan di Amerika, diajarkan bahwa menjadi lebih asertif akan membantu mereka mencapai lebih banyak perwakilan politik, dan perempuan di Indonesia diajarkan bahwa berperilaku sopan akan membantu mereka menghindari kekerasan atau pelecehan seksual. Namun kesamaan dalam statistik membuktikan bahwa bukan perilaku perempuan yang menyebabkan masalah ini, dan nasihat budaya untuk perempuan tidak akan menyelesaikan masalah.

Tentu saja, tidak ada jawaban sederhana untuk masalah sistemik ini.  Tapi, penyebab utama seksisme di seluruh dunia adalah patriarki — sistem yang telah dibangun untuk memperkuat laki-laki dan memperlemah perempuan. Sistem patriarki inilah yang telah menciptakan gagasan menyalahkan korban — untuk menghakimi dan menyalahkan perempuan atas penindasan yang mereka alami alih-alih sistem yang menyeluruh.  

Daripada melihat pilihan perempuan atau menilai mereka, kita harus melihat sistem patriarki yang lazim di kedua negara. 

Menurut saya, kita perlu berhenti fokus pada perilaku perempuan dan sebaliknya fokus pada cara masyarakat menilai dan menindas semua perempuan, dan kemudian kita harus membangun solidaritas untuk memecah sistem itu. Cita-cita bagaimana seorang perempuan seharusnya dan harus bertindak mungkin berbeda di kedua budaya, tetapi hal yang universal bahwa perempuan harus bebas dari kekerasan dan diperlakukan dengan bermartabat dan hormat.

Editor: Arif Sugeng W




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