There is Still Some Space: Women, Education, and Activism

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In the spirit of Kartini Day commemoration, Indonesia Mengglobal aims to feature articles from the Indonesian female researchers, educators, and other professionals around the globe. The current article in the Australia, New Zealand, and Pacific Islands regions highlighted Nita Novianti’s journey in juggling her multiple responsibilities as a PhD student, a mother of two children, and a wife. In spite of these responsibilities, she managed to find a space to participate in communities and accomplish various achievements.

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There is a popular saying that “PhD is a lonely journey.” Although it may ring true for some students, it may not equally represent the experience of those who embark the journey by tagging along family members.  As a PhD student at the University of Tasmania with two young kids and a husband, this journey to me feels crowded, mostly in a positive sense.  Every day is a constant juggle of finishing household chores, taking care of the children, and doing PhD work.  With the unprecedented times we have witnessed caused by the pandemic of COVID-19, the juggling is getting even more challenging with the additional burden of homeschooling and keeping children stay at home all the time.  However, though it seems that the whole ‘space’ in my life is already crowded, I can still manage to find some precious space for doing other things that equally matter to me, to do good to the communities.  All this is made possible by a strong will and endless support from my loved ones, and certainly by the hard work of the older generation of women who have opened up more space for women like me to participate in the communities.

University of Tasmania, Australia
University of Tasmania, Australia. Source: University of Tasmania YouTube Channel
Reading aloud with my children at Launceston Library
Reading aloud with my children at Launceston Library. Source: Personal documentation

Being a mother, a wife, a daughter, and a teacher, I balance multiple roles and responsibilities in my life, just like everybody else.  Whilst this multitasking would have been more difficult for older generation women, I feel blessed by the fruitful results of the long struggle of women for emancipation.  The struggle has come such a long way, and it certainly has not stopped, but there is a lot that has been achieved.  In my case, for instance, I am not the only woman who brings along her family members to pursue higher education in my university.  There are quite a few other women who are in the same boat, and certainly many others all over the world.  These women bring along their husbands who were willing to make many compromises, including leaving their jobs and careers and changing their ways of lives.  The female PhDs and their husbands break the boundaries, debunk the myth of rigid divisions between male and female space, and create more safe space for women to succeed.  No longer are women confined to domestic jobs; rather, everything can now be negotiated.  Both men and women can make compromises to make things work.  In my case, my PhD and other achievements have been made possible by the compromises that my husband and I have made.

The every day’s challenging juggles also do not hinder me from trying to accomplish something other than academic achievements.  Half a year into my PhD, I applied for National Australia Indonesia Language Awards (NAILA) in the ‘Wild Card’ category.  I translated a classic Australian poem, “My Country” by Dorothea Mackellar  with the hope of raising awareness of the effects of global warming on the environment, especially in light of Australian bushfires, and to strengthen the relationship between Indonesia and Australia as neighbouring countries.  The application process required cooperation from all members of the family, so that I could have time to do the laborious translation and recording of my reading of the translated poem.  And I won the award.

National Australia Indonesia Language Awards Trophy
National Australia Indonesia Language Awards Trophy. Source: Personal documentation

My family and I were invited to fly to Melbourne and attend the awards ceremony held at the Office of Department of Education and Training.  The invaluable experience allowed me to meet other wonderful women who, like me, had managed to find some space in their ‘crowded’ lives to participate in the event.  Many of the awardees were women, confirming my conviction that women’s struggle has achieved so much.  The support of our loved ones—their compromises—was also, once again, proven to be vital.

As a final word, I would like to say that my PhD is a testament to a hopeful path laid open thanks to the long struggle of women to gain equality, get emancipated, and be free in making important decisions in their lives.  The path is certainly not a clear-cut one, free from obstacles.  At times, it can get very crowded, with almost no space to breath.  However, with strong will and determination, women will always find some space to bloom, succeed, make their voice heard, and contribute to the community in their own capacity.

Editor: Yogi Saputra Mahmud