Like what you've read?

On Line Opinion is the only Australian site where you get all sides of the story. We don't
charge, but we need your support. Here�s how you can help.

  • Advertise

    We have a monthly audience of 70,000 and advertising packages from $200 a month.

  • Volunteer

    We always need commissioning editors and sub-editors.

  • Contribute

    Got something to say? Submit an essay.

 The National Forum   Donate   Your Account   On Line Opinion   Forum   Blogs   Polling   About   
On Line Opinion logo ON LINE OPINION - Australia's e-journal of social and political debate


On Line Opinion is a not-for-profit publication and relies on the generosity of its sponsors, editors and contributors. If you would like to help, contact us.


RSS 2.0

Kartini's legacy 102 years on

By Duncan Graham - posted Monday, 1 May 2006

On 21 April Indonesians celebrated Kartini Day. This recalls the brief life of Javanese emancipist Raden Ajeng Kartini who campaigned for women to be educated and independent. She died in 1904 aged 25.

How great a difference did Kartini make?

Compared to their Middle East sisters, Indonesian women are liberated. The nation's fifth president was a woman.  There are women in high places in government and business, though not many. Only eight per cent of legislators are women.


To the average hail-and-farewell visitor who just notes dress and public behavior, females seem as free as in the West. But try looking deeper.

A good place to start is newspaper WANTED columns for sales and administration. The requirements are specific:  Good command of English and maybe Mandarin, a degree from a top university and experience.

Plus something extra not seen in Western countries where discrimination is illegal: Must be under 25 and attractive. Photo required.

So however incandescent your intellect and diligent your record, if you're blemished by acne or past the quarter century don't bother applying.

The visible workforce in the flash offices is overwhelmingly female and young. Older women survive only in the government or in backroom jobs. Being unmarried and over 30 is a single-life sentence; if unemployed, prospects are minimal.

The demand for secretarial jobs is huge; some of the best and brightest from prestigious tertiary institutions are rotting behind reception desks and customer service counters across the archipelago.


They may be polymaths outside but in the workplace their greatest challenge is serving tea without spilling. Their role is decorative and subservient. 

They're employed as eye candy for the men who come to do business with their boss.They make his coffee, order the cakes for his meetings and buy his cigarettes - often with their own money.

They are not expected to contribute ideas or opinions; that's a male domain. The only power they exercise is the photocopier switch. 

  1. Pages:
  2. Page 1
  3. 2
  4. 3
  5. All

Discuss in our Forums

See what other readers are saying about this article!

Click here to read & post comments.

6 posts so far.

Share this:
reddit this reddit thisbookmark with Del.icio.usdigg thisseed newsvineSeed NewsvineStumbleUpon StumbleUponsubmit to propellerkwoff it

About the Author

Duncan Graham is a Perth journalist who now lives in Indonesia in winter and New Zealand in summer. He is the author of The People Next Door (University of Western Australia Press) and Doing Business Next Door (Wordstars). He blogs atIndonesia Now.

Other articles by this Author

All articles by Duncan Graham

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Article Tools
Comment 6 comments
Print Printable version
Subscribe Subscribe
Email Email a friend

About Us Search Discuss Feedback Legals Privacy