By Pantau Gambut

Kartini Day is a celebration of women's fight against all forms of oppression. To celebrate Kartini Day (21 April 2021), Pantau Gambut spoke with Sumarni Laman, a Dayak youth and the Coordinator of the Kalimantan Youth Act.

In your opinion, what do we celebrate on Kartini Day?

Kartini Day celebrates the rights of women. It is also the moment where a woman is not considered weak, but rather an individual who also has competence, who can also be a leader, who also deserves an education, and who also has many abilities.

Do we already have such rights?

Many female friends shared about how difficult it was to be living in a patriarchal system. For example, when you are married and experience domestic violence, it is very difficult for women to file for divorce because child custody will be given to the husband and divorced women tend to have a negative stigma in society. In addition, the right to freedom and the right to obtain proper education is still difficult to obtain in some places. I'm not talking about my community, i.e. the Dayak community because we uphold the principle of togetherness and equal rights.

How can we celebrate Kartini Day?

I think Kartini Day is a moment to reflect as a large nation that respects differences. We must realize that women are an important part of Indonesian society and stop undermining the role of women in Indonesia's development.

Is there a connection between women's issues and environmental issues?

In fact, women play a big role in the environmental sector because they are very close to the environment: water, forests, and plantations. This is because they arrange how their children and families will get food. When women's rights are recognized and women are given the opportunity to voice their opinions and lead a movement, it will be more successful than a movement that does not involve women and is only treated as passive listeners and objects. Because women have the heart and instinct to protect. Therefore, the movement aimed to protect their family and community. There is obviously a significant intersection between women and the environment.

From your experience and observation, has there been enough space for women to participate?

Kalimantan provides great opportunities for women and the youth to speak up and take action. I don't want to generalize but from my experience, there are many women movements and activists at the grassroots level in Kalimantan. However, in other areas, such as Aceh, women still have to fight very hard to be able to speak up.

Oftentimes, there is also a stigma that women are weaker, for example in the movement to extinguish fires or forest restoration, as well as a stigma in dressing. However, from my experience, there are no limitations.

In her era, Kartini fought against oppressive systems such as patriarchy, feudalism, and colonialism. What is the current condition?

We need to fight against a system that does not seem to support the community and only sides towards the authorities. In this case, women and indigenous peoples have always been oppressed. We have occupied and maintained the area for thousands of years and these rulers robbed the rights of indigenous peoples.

We also have to fight ego in the education sector. Now many areas are starting to open up and we can obtain an education. However, sometimes education makes us arrogant and it increases our ego when we return to our hometown. In fact, we must adjust to the applicable customs and norms when we return to our hometown.

It is very difficult to get an education in remote areas, not only for women but also for men. However, men have more opportunities to obtain an education because in remote areas they have to go to the city for junior high school and higher-level education. Sometimes those who have undergone higher education, have the power, return to their villages but instead oppress the community by tricking them and taking their land. Some are also unwilling to return to develop their village because they feel that they are doing well in other regions. When we are discussing developing a region, about emancipation for equality, we shouldn't be selfish if we already have that right.

Are there any messages for us as modern women about celebrating Kartini Day?

Kartini Day is a moment for us to remember what we have experienced and although in some areas we have been able to gain rights due to Kartini’s struggle, Indonesia still has to fight hard to gain rights in many other areas. We must continue our fight to advocate for the great role of women who are not inferior to men in any way. Moreover, because we have the instinct to protect, we can be at the forefront of protecting the environment, our families, and our planet. The goal is for Kartini Day to not only be merely ceremonial but that Kartini Day will serve as a momentum to revive our enthusiasm to fight together.

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