A mother of two, a loving wife, a female politician and that rare combination of idealism and an open mind, Puan Maharani, Indonesia’s current coordinating minister for human development and culture, tells us that her mother, Indonesia’s first female president, Megawati Soekarnoputri, has been her biggest inspiration throughout her career in politics.
Puan believes that optimism and flexibility are the keys to success, along with a strong character and integrity. “My mother is a very determined person, and she maintains a strong set of values in her way of thinking,” she tells Indonesia Tatler.
“On the other hand, my late father, Taufiq Kiemas, said that we have to be flexible and have an open mind in leading our lives. He taught me that we need to take a pragmatic approach to cope with obstacles and challenges, but also that when we believe in something good and we are sure about it, we should follow our hearts.
In leading her ministry, Puan is currently implementing a National Movement on Mental Revolution (Gerakan Nasional Revolusi Mental), a programme initiated by President Joko Widodo with the purpose of transforming the Indonesian mentality to one with integrity combined with a strong work ethic, and a sense of responsibility to each other and to the country as a whole.
Of course, this movement needs time and efforts as well as the participation and awareness of every person in the country in order to work. “It’s time to think about how to build our nation and character so that Indonesia can grow and compete with other countries,” Puan tells us.
“With the Mental Revolution, we want our country to have a culture that is clean, orderly and service-minded,” she says. “When we have a strong character, we can have a strong economy with sovereignty. A strong culture will make Indonesia a great nation, able to compete with other countries, but this doesn’t mean that we should become an inward-looking country,” she explains.
Puan’s pedigree in the areas of politics, education and healthcare is second to none. As the granddaughter of the first Indonesian president, and the daughter of the first female Indonesian president and having a politician father, being involved in politics is a way of life for Puan.
She has worked with political and social activities since she was in junior high school. Without any encouragement from her parents, joining a political party was a natural thing for her. And being a woman certainly didn’t slow her political career: as of now she is the youngest-ever female minister.
“We need to prove that whenever a woman is given a chance, she can grow and succeed,” says Puan. “That doesn’t mean that we need to feel superior. We still need to understand our nature as women; about how we need to be good wives and mothers, yes, but also how we manage our time in dealing with work, too,” she says.
Back to the more practical matters in hand, Puan is still striving to promote the idea of Revolusi Mental, especially to young people. The ministry has a website (revolusimental.go.id) to help anyone to get involved and have a voice—even if it’s a critical one.
“l really want everyone to participate in this programme by joining the activities as well as giving us their opinions or criticisms,” she says. “Maybe the benefits of our programmes are somewhat intangible and long term, but we hope that the generations to come—our children and grandchildren—will benefit from what we’re doing now and we’ll have really fostered a true spirit of nationalism—and that this will be our defining national character.
Read more about Puan Maharani in our May 2016 issue.
Text by Amadea Maya; Photography by Robin Alfian; Styling by Adi Surantha; Hair and make up by Mia Tefillah; Wardrobe by Biyan.