Indonesian National hero Kartini left a legacy of emancipation for Indonesian women.
Photo: Future leaders: Children dressed in traditional costumes play together while celebrating Kartini Day in a school in Semarang, Central Java.
Through her restless and questioning mind, she put down her thoughts in letters, placing a mark in the history of how a young Javanese noblewoman challenged the colonialist and patriarchal society she lived in.
In our so-called modern-day Indonesia, 132 years after her birth on April 21, women are still judged more on their appearances that on their actions. Take Melinda Dee, also known as Inong Malinda, a Citibank executive accused of embezzling Rp 4 billion (US$464,000) from one of her customers. News stories focused more on her breast cup size than on how much money she allegedly swindled.
In our paternalistic society, being mature in age is considered better than being young. And in our patriarchal society, practices in which women are considered, as British author Oscar Wilde wrote, “a decorative sex”, are still common. But it is not all gloom and doom for young Indonesian women. Education and work opportunities are becoming more accessible, and some young Indonesian women are grabbing their chances for success with a firm grip.
How do these young Indonesian women rise against the challenge?
To celebrate the birth of Indonesia’s heroine, Kartini, The Jakarta Post asked four inspiring young women who were working hard and making their dreams come true how they fought against the odds.
Fashion designer Nina Nikicio, fashion blogger and entrepreneur Diana Rikasari, editor-in-chief and co-founder of teen magazine Gogirl! Anita Moran and youth activist Alanda Kariza are Indonesian women in their 20s who are successful in their own fields.
Young spirits: A street parade of kindergarten children takes place in Pasuruan, East Java.
The 25-year-old lover of black, Nina Karina Nikicio, has been building her fashion label Nikicio for the last four years.
Her designs have graced local magazine spreads and international fashion blogs, and her label counts buyers from as near as Jakarta and as far as London and New York.
“It’s the wish to make money,” she joked when asked what motivated her to start her own label. “No, no, I’m joking,” she quipped.
The graduate of LASALLE College of the Arts, Singapore said she had worked for other people in Singapore but had the itch to do something of her own. “I freelanced for a year before realizing I had to have my own label. I have to be able to make my own and not work for other people all the time,” she said.
“Not that working for someone is wrong, but with your own business, it’s your call. You can set your own hours.”
Nina returned to Indonesia from Singapore in 2007. That same year, at the age of 21, she started Nikicio while she was also studying business. “What I got from school I applied [to Nikicio],” she said.
Suppliers and many stores doubted her because she was young. When she asked a supplier whether she could purchase a certain amount of good quality fabric, the supplier thought she was just a child trying out business, she said.
“I got a lot of rejections at the beginning. I was conned often, as well. But I just learned from it. For me, there are still other opportunities when you have been rejected,” she said. “It’s alright, just go through with it,” she added.
For now, she is collaborating with Centro department stores and provided Nikicio for Centro. She has her own webstore and stock at two stores in Singapore.
“I want to have my own store. And I really want Nikicio to have a show abroad and be known in several countries,” she said. Although, the Indonesian market is a big one to work at the time, she added.
Her message to young women pursuing their dreams: “Never give up. Don’t stop when you meet one obstacle. Be strong even though someone tries to put you down. Don’t back down. You have to prove to yourself that you can do it.”
When Nina started her business in 2007, Diana Rikasari was publishing her first blog posts on her fashion blog, Hot Chocolate & Mint at dianarikasari.blogspot.com.
What started as a medium of self-expression soon opened doors onto numerous opportunities. Diana’s blog documents her one of a kind and quirky day-to-day style as well as her take on various issues.
It did not take long for fashion magazine editors to notice her and start using her as a guest fashion stylist. Local clothing company Bloop Endorse invited her to collaborate and design clothes for them in the collection Diana Rikasari for Bloop Endorse.
The end of 2010 became a milestone for the 26-year-old. After working for companies for two and-a-half years, she quit her job and launched her shoe line, UP. It’s a business born out of her passion for fashion as well as her wish to give back to society. So, from the very start, she allocated Rp 5,000 from every sale to charity.
“I am always motivated wanting to make myself and other people happy. It’s a beautiful feeling to just see people smile and forget their problems,” she wrote in an email.
Despite her spontaneous outlook, Diana is someone who takes pursuing her dreams seriously, and her method comes from understanding the reasons behind the dream. “In achieving our dream, it’s important to always know why we have such a dream,” she said.
“We should have what I call a ‘meaningful’ dream. By achieving one’s dream, what impact will it give to oneself and the society? A ‘meaningful’ dream should lead to a betterment of the bigger life. If our dream is motivated by such positive thoughts, the universe will always be with us,” she said.
Diana explained she had problems convincing people about her plans because she was a young woman. “It takes a greater effort to convince people of whatever thoughts or plans I have, knowing that I have fewer years of experience,” she said. “But I guess this is fair. We just have to work harder, and we’re young anyway so we should have the energy to do so!” she added.
She said she overcame that obstacle by preparing a solid plan. “When you’re young, you can’t just propose an idea and say, ‘because I think so’. Express to people what we have in mind with a firm background of why our idea should be considered, why we think it’s going to work, and how. We just have to show that we’ve done proper research and thinking,” she said.
Diana’s message to young women working toward their dream is: “In every big dream lies great, hard work. Our road might be bumpy, but it always will be. We just have to be determined and persistent and enjoy the bumps. The bigger the dream, the better if we start from a younger age. Just remember, if our dream is motivated by good intentions, the universe will always be with us.”
Competition in the magazine sector is tight. Established names like Gadis and American-licensed CosmoGirl! have long dominated the market for teen magazines. This, however, did not deter Anita Moran and her sisters, Nina and Githa, from starting a teen magazine they would love to read.
Anita Moran, 28, is the editor-in-chief and co-founder of the teen magazine GoGirl! When Anita and her sisters were about to start the magazine, people doubted them, saying that competition in the media was too tight. But, Anita and her sisters ignored the warnings and charged through. Now, in its fifth year, the magazine is going strong with more than 110,000 copies per edition.
Anita’s love for magazines was one of the reasons she wanted to make one herself. But it was not only that. “I am passionate about women’s independence. I really want women to realize their strength within them, and that should start from a young age. That’s why our articles always have those messages,” she said.
Anita said women should be independent and decide what they want to do in their lives based on their own passions.
“That’s why I really don’t like seeing a woman in a toxic relationship that kills her potential,” she said. Anita also thinks that one should not always try to please others at the expense of their own dreams. She said that many young girls choose a study path or a career based on their parents’ choices, despite their own desires. “That really changes one’s path in life,” she said.
Anita said she did not think GoGirl! would be this big. Her dream now is to maintain the quality of the magazine. “I hope that this will continue to run. This is a family business, and there should be regeneration. I want GoGirl! to be sustainable and keep up with the times. And always keep inspiring [young women],” she said.
Anita’s message to young women is to always dare to dream. “You have to be courageous to have a dream. And you have to dream; without it life becomes bland,” she said. “Take actions on your dreams,” she added.
In dealing with failures, she said that one failure will open other opportunities. “There are things behind the things we can see. We shouldn’t see failure only from our side. A failure will always open doors,” she said.
Alanda Kariza, 20, is an award-winning youth activist, a published author and blogger and a dedicated daughter.
At the age of 14, she published her debut novel, Mint Chocolate Chips. A year later, she co-founded a youth-led social community called The Cure for Tomorrow. In 2009, she was selected for the Global Changemakers Youth Summit and went on to organize an annual event called the
Indonesian Youth Conference (IYC). In Early 2010, she received the Ashoka Young Changemakers Awards 2010: Innovation in Clean Water and Sanitation award. She recently published two books, Vice Versa and Pertama Kalinya! (For the First Time!).
The high-achieving woman, a few months ago, became a trending topic on microblogging site Twitter, for her blog post about her mother who became a suspect in the Bank Century case. Alanda was honest and questioned the legal system that charged her mother, who said she was a scapegoat in the case, a higher sentence — 10 years in prison and a Rp 10 million fine — than that of the Bank Century owner.
Alanda said what inspired her to work hard and do the things she did was “the wish to make the people that I love proud”.
“My mother is filing an appeal with the higher court and is in the process of another trial because there are three cases,” she added.
Alanda said she had faced obstacles in reaching her dream because of her youth. She was refused by several international NGOs for volunteer work, because “she was too young”. Alanda eventually created her own organization, The Cure for Tomorrow.
Her message for young women is to “be very good at the things you like and be the best version of yourself, for we have the power not only to change our lives but also others”.
Written by: Prodita Sabarini