Unlike international Mothers Day, which falls on the second Sunday of May, Indonesia celebrates its own “Hari Ibu” on December 22. While both occasions celebrate mothers and motherhood everywhere, Indonesia’s Mothers Day has its origins in 1938, when the first Indonesian Women’s Congress was held in Yogyakarta. The meeting was a precursor to the revolutionary movement, in which women participated in the struggle for independence from the Dutch colonial government. President Sukarno declared the date to be a national holiday in 1953. As such, when Indonesians celebrate Mother’s Day, it serves not only to remind us of the key role that women play in the nurturing of good and upstanding members of society, but also of the continuing struggle for women’s rights across the Indonesian archipelago. Not incidentally, and as befits a progressive and democratic society, Indonesian Mothers Day also serves as a reminder of the important role that women play in various sectors of the economy.
Today, more women are educated and hold meaningful jobs, and often are the source of a family’s much-needed second income. Of the 34 ministers in President Jokowi’s cabinet, eight are women. Women holding senior positions in the military and the corporate world is no longer a rarity, as it was at the time of the first Indonesian Women Congress 80 years ago.
Unfortunately, despite these strides, many more women, particularly in the rural areas, are still deprived of their rights to education and health care, remaining marginalized and often the victims of domestic violence. So, continuing the struggle to free women from illiteracy, lack of knowledge and opportunities, is what Mothers Day in Indonesia really means, beyond exalting motherhood.
And what better way to achieve this goal than to promote writing and reading and to continue publishing books. Despite often bleak forecasts for the publishing industry, young people in particular are writing more and the well-attended literary festivals throughout the country is testament to this increasing interest in books.
That will also continue to be our mission: to publish quality books and in doing so to promote our culture and literature. We could not do this without your generous contributions. As the year ends, Lontar extends its deepest gratitude to friends and supporters and hope that you will continue to extend a helping hand in the next year and beyond. Wishing everyone happy holidays and a successful New Year in 2019.