REPUBLIKA.CO.ID, When she was six years old, Sofia Malika Djojonegoro joined the Sakti Club to learn Tae Kwon Do at the insistence of her father. At that time Sofia did not understand why she had to take up Tae Kwon Do and she was uncomfortable learning the art of self-defense especially since the club was mostly made up of boys.
"Someday you will appreciate why I made you learn self-defense.” Those words from her father stayed in Sofia’s mind when she raised objections to having go for Tae Kwon Do.
Although the initial days were difficult, Sofia, who was born in Jakarta on February 17, 2004, persevered with her lessons and today she enjoys the classes. It gives her self-confidence especially when she is with her friends.
The importance of being able to defend oneself hit home when she was at a friend’s birthday party some years later and witnessed some of her girlfriends being bullied by the boys. The girls could not fight back whch made them vulnerable.
Sofia's mind opened up with that incident as she realised that in a developing country like Indonesia, women often do not have the same bargaining power as men. She started to read and research about violence againt women including rape and that is when she understood why her father had encouraged her to take up Tae Kwon Do.
“I am sad and angry when a girl is bullied by her friends, but she keep quiet. They can't do anything. Then I found out, what the men were doing was considered harassment. Thank God, I have Tae Kwon Do to defend myself,” said Sofia.
It was with that realization that Sofia took a strong interets in issues concerning protection for women, which was strongly supported by her parents. Since then, she has been a strong advocate for womens’ rights in Indonesia, following in the footsteps of her heroes.
Sofia was born into a highly educated family. Her father, Dharma Hutama Djojonegoro is the CEO of PT Adaro Power Tbk. Meanwhile, her mother, Cindy Mulkan, is a prominent lawyer in Jakarta while her grandfather, Prof. Wardiman Djojonegoro was the Minister of Education and Culture from 1993 to 1998.
Her interest in Indonesian history, in particular the role played by women was nurtured by her grandfather who supplied her with books and information. It is thus no wonder that among Sofia’s idols are women leaders such as RA Kartini, Tjoet Nyak Dien, Sri Mulyani Indrawati and Nadine Siregar, founder of the Generation Maju Berkarya Foundation (YGMB).
“Once I asked grandpa, can I have some books about RA Kartini. A few days later a car arrived filled with books on Kartini. I am very interested in Kartini because she struggled through education,” noted Sofia. Prof Wardiman is a also a role model for Sofia because of his thirst for knowledge and his desire to keep learning.
“My grandfather is very fluent in English, French, German, Dutch but even though he is 87 years old he is now studying Japanese,” Sofia noted. “He does not hesitate to sit in a student’s chair to study.”
As she got older, Sofia's insights grew broader. She realized that she had to put her thoughts and ideas into action to make a meaningful difference so at age 15, she founded the Srikandi Foundation which fosters empowerment and protection for women in Indonesia.
Srikandi is taken from the name of an androgynous female character in the Mahabharata epic. Sofia currently manages the Srikandi Foundation with several friends, including Jacqueline Hartono, Heidi Kusuma, Carolene Adeline, Christina Alexa Fong, Keira Fong, Arielle Susanto, Roberto Concepcion.
She came to understand that sexual harassment, including rape was a serious problem in Indonesia with the number of cases of violence against women increasing by 800% over the past 12 years according to data from Komnas Perempuan (National Commission on Violence Against Women)
According to the published data, in2019 there were 431,471 cases of violence against women falling to 299,911 in 2020, which is still a large number of cases.
“These numbers show that women are in danger. Something is wrong in our social system. It needs to change. In the future, Indonesian women must have stronger bargaining power in all respects. The country will be developed if the women are advanced," she said.
Women Victims of Violence 2008 - 2020
Source: Komnas Perempuan
Through the Srikandi Foundation, Sofia and her friends carry out various activities, including opening free Tae Kwon Do training classes for young girls who want to learn self-defense.
Sofia who earned a black belt in Tae Kwon Do at age 15 explained that the empowerment of women through the Srikandi Foundation was focused on education. The Foundation offers scholarships to school-age girls who come from poor families.
“The value scholarship is not great, only 1 million rupiah per year for one student, which is given in the form of school equipment, uniforms, and shoes. Currently there are 80 girls receiving the Srikandi Scholarship, including a number of students from a village in Papua which was struck by a tsunami some time ago,” said Sofia.
So, where does the scholarship funds come from? Sofia said the money is raised from auction of personal items, sales of home products, or fundraising at charity events. She did all this with some of her friends.
Women's empowerment and protection activist, Premita Fifi from the Indonesian Women's Story (KiPer) appreciates Sofia's activities and efforts. However, to build awareness among women who are the victims of harrasment, there are several alternatives including increasing awareness and understanding of harrasment.
“Harrasment has a very wide spectrum. For example, a woman crossing the street or alley being teased or touched by a man. If she finds it offensive that is harassment," said Fifi.
So, if women understand what harrasment is, then they will try to avoid places and situations that have the potential for sexual harassment to occur. In addition, women must also have the courage to fight, at least report to law enforcement, if they experience or see acts of harassment by someone against themselves or others.
“So prevention can be done through the dissemination of understanding about harrasment among the targeted women. The socialization can be adapted to the means and capabilities of the activist community,” explained Fifi.
For the empowerment and protection of women carried out by young people like Sofia, Fifi suggested, it would be more effective if it was done through social media, networking with institutions or organizations that have the same core competence, organizing webinars, or training for trainers (ToT).
“Before holding the activity, it must be determined first, what is the message? Who's the audience? What's the content? Efforts to build awareness cannot be done in one activity, it must be continuous.”
Sofia is currently a year 12 student at the Jakarta Intercultural School. At school, she is known to be very critical in gender-related discussions, especially on women's empowerment and protection.She takes issue, for example, with why out ot 220 national heroes, only 16 are women. “That is not fair because our struggle for independence was not only on the battle field,” she retords.
“There are many things that women have done for Indonesia in the past. Even now there is much that can be done. Remember, Indonesia has given everything for us, we must also do everything we can for Indonesia," she adds.
In school, Sofia is keen to participate in classes on politics, law, history, debate, public speaking amongst others. It is thus no surprise that she has represented her country at international debate tournaments for students.
As she nears completion of her high school, the ambitous 17-year old has her eyes set on studying law in the United States. But to become a respected lawyer, she will have to study hard and develop qualities such as mental resilience, courage, analytical and negotiating skills.
“By having mastery of those four points, women lawyers will be more competitive than men. In addition, women also have a natural advantage to become excellent lawyers. Women are good at hiding strategies and legal constructions that are built in court proceedings,” said Yuni Chandra Haneda from YCH & Associates
If those four points are the key to becoming successful woman lawyer, then Sofia is well on her way to achieving her goals. Beyond law, she also hopes to enter politics and win a seat in the national Parliament.
“I want to help Indonesian women. I want to advance Indonesian women in society and my hope is that one day I too can live up to those ideals and follow in the footsteps of Karitni,” she notes.
-1st Place Impromptu Style Debate in the 2020 International Association of Southeast Asian Schools (IASAS) Forensics and Debate competition hosted by Taipei International School, Taiwan. This was held virtually due to COVID-19. IASAS Forensics and Debate is an annual international speaking tournament among International Schools in South Asian Countries. Impromptu is a style of debate in which students have one minute to create a 4-5 minute speech based on a prompt.
- 1st Place Impromptu Style Debate in the 2019 International Association of Southeast Asian Schools (IASAS) Forensics and Debate competition at Jakarta.
- 1st Place Individual Debater, World Scholar’s Cup 2017 Athens Global Round. The World Scholar’s Cup is an international competition involving 15,000+ participants from 65 countries.
- Top 3 Speakers, SASDC Debate Competition. Organised by the Singapore Debating Committee, this south asian competition consisted of 400+ participants
- TED Talk: https://youtu.be/C77fsbQvNAQ
After many years of prolific public speaking, Sofia wanted to represent Indonesia. In February 2021, she joined independent selection, and made it into the top list of 6 individuals out of 143 candidates.
In April 2021, she joined a 10 day selection process consisting of debates, interviews, and tests to determine the Indonesian National Team. Out of 12 candidates, she made it onto the team of five. In July 2021, she competed in WSDC Macau 2021, going against the national teams of 100+ member nations.