Almost a hundred years ago, women in the Netherlands gained the right to vote. You would think that a lot has changed in the years that followed. But if you look closely, there is still a lot of room for improvement.
In theory, boys and girls are equal in the Netherlands. Everyone has the opportunity to go to school, to vote and to say whatever they think. But in practice, especially when you look at our politics, there is still a lot of work to do.
In the Netherlands, the participation of women in politics is stagnating. For example, the proportion of female representatives in our national parliament has fallen from 41% to 37%. Locally, it is even worse where 28% of representatives are female. In my own municipality Heerenveen, the situation is not any different: only 8 out of 29 representatives are female there.
This highlights a serious problem. The way we look at men and women in our culture, results in men and women developing different interests. Therefore it is important that both genders are equally represented in politics.
We have to encourage women to become active in politics
But furthermore, how can we tell girls that they have all the chances in the world, that they can become whatever they want and that they can be who they want to be, when we do not have the role models to prove it? How can we tell girls this when we cannot make it possible, even after almost hundred years, to have a realistic proportion of female representatives. Where is the Dutch version of Angela Merkel or Theresa May?
Equal rights legislation means nothing if we cannot translate it into the real world. Of course, legislation is a first step towards a better situation. But if we don’t adapt it to the real situation, it is worth nothing at all.
Therefore it is important that we not only change the laws in the fight for an equal world, we also have to focus on a culture change. At the end of the day, it is about making a real change and not filling a book with some laws. This means that we have to encourage women to become active in politics. To accomplish that, we need to talk to them to find out what kind of barriers they experience when they want to participate in politics.
We are obliged to look for new female role models for our youth, so that we can inspire them to become the people they want to be. I hope that it doesn’t take another hundred years before we can honestly answer the question “Who run the world?” with “girls”.