A Conversation with Laila Munaf: About Being A Feminist

Posted by: Kania Anggiani

A Conversation with Laila Munaf: 
About Being A Feminist

Being a woman in this era means you have so much more flexibility to achieve your dreams compared to the olden days. As a tribute to Kartini, we’ve had the opportunity to sit down with our dear friend Laila Munaf, an inspiring entrepreneur who also doesn’t like to be called a pioneer in her industry, and that’s what we love about her.

SANA Studio - an active lifestyle hub that Laila and partners initiated in 2012, has evolved from just a small workout studio into a community platform for people to work out and connect. To Laila Munaf, living healthy is more than just a trend, it’s a necessity. It’s more about how she manages to bring out the positive vibes to everyone. Taking inspiration from her day-to-day life as an entrepreneur, running a business is not just about profits. It’s how she tries to achieve a work-life balance in the middle of her role as a wife and a mother.

What's your daily schedule like?
My day usually starts from making breakfast for my son and then my husband will take him to school. Right after that, it’s time for me to have an intimate relationship with my food. When it comes to work, me and my husband are very much involved in the daily management of the studio. We are actually in the same room every single day. I’m in charge of the studio and he’s in charge of the coffee shop. Since we’re doing different things, we don’t really need to talk and interact with each other while working.

At noon, my husband will pick up my son and bring him to the studio; and I will spend at least 30 minutes with my son every day - no phones, no work, just quality time with him, as suggested by his teacher. In the evening, we come home together every day.

Tell me, what sounds like a good day for you?
Since my daily activities require me to constantly interact with people, a good day for me would be my alone time just reading a book. Whenever I feel the need to recharge my energy, I go for a workout session. Apart from that, I take pleasure in having a holiday with my friends because when I come home afterwards, I’m gonna bring a better energy to my family.

As a wife and a mother, do you specifically divide the daily chores with your husband?
I came from a very liberal and diverse family that has no specific culture or religion that we uphold. A lot of adjustments arose from me because I used to live abroad for so many years. Since we still live with my mother-in-law, me and my husband had made an agreement to support my vision of having a successful family. I once told him, “If you’re looking for a stereotypical Javanese wife, don’t marry me.”

When it comes to daily chores, for instance, I’m doing the laundry but it’s not necessary for me to make him breakfast. Whenever I cook, he’s going to wash the dishes and vice versa. It becomes our quality time because we get the chance to prep our meals and spend time in the kitchen together. We grew up differently but we’ve agreed to work together as a family by meeting halfway.

"It doesn’t really matter what people say because my purpose is to encourage a healthier lifestyle."

What is your role as a woman in your field of work? And how is it affecting the growth of your business?
When I first started, there were not too many female trainers who worked in the industry, everything was mostly dominated by men. It was challenging in the first place to prove to the society that you can do much as a female trainer, so I decided to break the barrier and went with my gut.

To begin with, I’m not a competitive person. I always push myself but I enjoy being comfortable. It doesn’t really matter what people say because my purpose is to encourage a healthier lifestyle by introducing all these workouts in Indonesia. There’s a lot of people who think that I own the title of “a pioneer”, but I don’t care about that. Many people try to compete instead of supporting each other.

At SANA, we’re working in a team of four. During our first few years running this business, there’s suddenly a lot of small workout studio openings in Jakarta, and to be honest, we freaked out. But after thinking about it again, we knew that we didn’t have to panic. As long as we always go back to our core value, we’re going to be able to see the bigger picture. Our mission is to spread the awareness on how to live healthily and not just focusing on workouts as a trend. We’re not here to be famous, we’re here to campaigning something that’s beneficial for everyone’s daily life.

There's this one time when I was collaborating with a big sports brand as a master trainer - it’s such a stressful time for me as a wife and a mother to hold that title, that I have to take the time to train myself more as well as to travel very often. They required me to get more certifications and more training which resulted in spending less time with my family and it’s not something that I want. I don’t want to not have a home to come to.

"For me, to be able to have the freedom to express yourself is what makes you alive - as long as you know what you give to the world doesn’t bring harm to others."

How do you and your husband raise your son? What are the values that you put in his upbringing?
When it comes to our son, my husband is the one who introduces and teaches him the basic family manners. He’s very disciplined and fun at the same time. My role is more towards instilling the idea of tolerance. I tell him that your grandfather celebrates Christmas, but we go to the mosque. There’s no better religion. The most important thing is to be kind to other people regardless of their beliefs.

What’s necessary for me is to teach my son not to label any chores. We’ve always taught our son how to wash the dishes or make the bed without being burdened by labels. I think it’s very important to let your children experience everything. Either they like to draw or cook, don’t limit them with boundaries that stop them to be expressive with their imaginations.

What does it feel to be alive in this era?
For me, to be able to have the freedom to express yourself is what makes you alive - as long as you know what you give to the world doesn’t bring harm to others. In my case, I think it’s when I’m on stage in every class without getting bothered however I look like is when I feel most alive.

Everyone has their own passion and magic, but not everyone has the freedom to express themselves. To be alive is to be able to share the magic and let the magic happen because other people will be able to see and feel it too.

"A girl whose mind and knowledge have been expanded will no longer able to live in a world of her ancestors. She entered the cage after being taught to fly."

- R. A. Kartini

Text by Elisa Kuswari
Photographs by Asita Yulia
Creative Direction by Kania Anggiani

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