Wednesday, 3 March 2010

International Women's Day: a Self Reflection

Bloggers Unite has an event of writing about the International Women's Day (IWD) for March 8, 2010. In the introduction for the post, it is written that the objective of the writing is to acknowledge the IWD as a major day of global celebration for the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future. Indonesia only has one day for women, Hari Ibu. The translation into English will make it a "Mother's day", but it was actually started as a Women's Day.

If we read it in English Wikipedia, it is shown clearly that Hari Ibu started from a celebration of Indonesian Women's Congress.
Mother's day (Indonesian: Hari Ibu) is celebrated nationally on December 22. It is the day of the first Indonesian Women Congress (Indonesian: Konggres Perempuan Indonesia) from December 22 to 25, 1928. The meeting happens in a building now known as Mandalabhakti Wanitatama in Adisucipto Street, Yogyakarta. It was attended by 30 female organizations from 12 cities in Java and Sumatra. In Indonesia, female organizations have existed since 1912, inspired by Indonesian heroines of the 19th century, e.g. Kartini, Martha Christina Tiahahu, Cut Nyak Meutia, Maria Walanda Maramis, Dewi Sartika, Nyai Ahmad Dahlan, Rasuna Said, etc.

The idea to make the day official was started during the third Indonesian Women Congress in 1938. It was signed by president Soekarno under the Presidential Decree (Indonesian: Dekrit Presiden) no. 316 year 1959. The day was originally aimed to celebrate the spirit of Indonesian women to improve the condition of the nation. Today, Mother's Day is celebrated by expressing love and gratitude to mothers. People present gifts to mothers, such as flowers, hold surprise parties and competitions such as cooking competition or kebaya wearing competition. People also allow mothers to have their day off from doing domestic chores.[citation needed]

From the Indonesian wikipedia, we can read that Hari Ibu used to be a day to voice out voices of Indonesian women, i.e. voicing their concern about high prices (read the Indonesian wikipedia). Indonesia had its first woman minister in 1950 with the appointment of Ibu Maria Ulfah as a Minister of Social Welfare (Menteri Sosial). Now, we have more than one woman minister in the cabinet. Yet, life for women is not easier than before. Women as the target of domestic violence are still here. I've known a story of a woman who worked overseas as a migrant worker, sending her money home, while her husband is using that money to live with his other wife here...That's life!

Actually, reading my grandmother's biographical notes made me realize that she was braver and more advance in taking her choices of life than me. May be it was due to her freedom from a family life? She lived her life alone, never had a family responsibility, the one that married women would usually struggling in.

I used to dream of taking my master degree, but failed to gain any scholarships. Yet, may be I was not persistent enough on that dream. I changed my mind as I get married and have children. Kartini gave up her scholarship, and later on she got married. Delivering her baby made her lost her life. Having my own children to me was like starting to loose my old life and started a whole new world. Citizen journalism made me came back to a part of my old life. It is something that makes me alive, and I'm trying hard to keep the balance of my "present" life.

I wonder if there is a relation between the changing meaning of Indonesian Women's day. "Hari Ibu" is not representing women's day anymore, but is reduced into a mother's day. I use the word 'reduce' as we are only celebrating the role of a mother in a woman. Yet, women have so many different aspects. Are we reducing our own talents? I know there are a lot of Indonesian women who have their achievement in social, political, or economic achievements. Ibu Sri Mulyani, Indonesian Finance Minister, is an interesting person. Despite of the Century case, her ability to go up into her position now is really amazing. I've seen a television interview where her family also present. She admitted that she need to balance the demand of her work with her time for her family. Even at the moment of one important meeting (the Century case), she was actually in a mourning condition as she knew that her mom was sick and then passed away, without the ability to be there at her last moment.

That's the risk of a working woman. To be able to balance the duty of work and the family matters. It is harder on women, especially here in Asia, where patriarchal way of life made women seen as second class citizen. We can argue that it is way the woman put herself is important. But, it is true that being a woman made the struggle become harder.

In the construction site, it was more difficult for woman (than for her fellow male co-worker) to order the male worker under her supervision to do something. Male workers tended to underestimate women.

Yet, more and more successful women appeared. If we used to hear that behind every great man there is a great woman, then perhaps it is time to consider that we also need a great man (or a great family) behind a great multitasking woman. So the man in family should also support their wife, their daughter, or their granddaughter to reach to the sky...

Once in a bus, I asked a young girl who are heading to work in a kiosk in Mangga Dua, why she had chosen to work after her senior high school and not to continue her study. She answered me, "It will be the same, don't you think? After the study I'll end up waiting for that kiosk too. So, why wasting my time?" It's not really true, there will be a different aspect if she chose to continue her study (of course financial support is needed). Yet, if I see housewives around me (including myself :)), we were going through difficult time of study only to take our post at home. Some gained her success through selling her ability to cook, some other through selling insurance or houses. This cooking expertise or marketing ability could be gained even without enduring the study. I've met a man who was my first tutor as a junior architect. He forgot me, but astonished that I became a housewife, he said: "What a waste of your long struggle of study and work..." I thought it was the colours of my life, and I feel blessed that I had those wonderful experiences...yet, somewhere inside I am still asking myself to try my best to make those experiences worth for others. The struggle to balance myself between my family life, my idealism, and my contribution to others is still going on.

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