We need more equality in our world, in our lives and only then will we arrive at a more sustainable world. More men and women should be demanding this and putting efforts into the right direction. Coming Saturday is International Women’s Day and it makes me reflect on the role models in my life.
Growing up I was lucky with quite a few progressive role models in terms of the possibilities for women and they were all in my family. I guess both my father and grandfather were role models to me. My father was a caring parent taking responsibility for some of the traditional female chores in the house like cooking and grocery shopping for the family. He would also tell everyone that I would be the first female Prime Minister of The Netherlands – no pressure, 🙂 My grandfather could not stop emphasizing how important it was for me to pursue my education so I could always take care of myself.
My great grand aunt was a primary school teacher who did not get married until she retired as that would have meant loosing her job and she wanted to fulfil her vocation of enabling children to pursue their potential. Last, but certainly not least, my mum was/is a role model too. Against all odds she would continue to work at a time when in Dutch society mums would not work. Furthermore, she would be active in local politics too, showing my brothers and me that a mother can do lots. And when my dad passed away too early in our lives, my mum would keep her head high, continue to work, take on volunteer jobs when she retired and be a great grandmother too.
I can actually conclude that I grew up in a feminist environment, though none of my family members would ever want to use that word.
When studying I got introduced to feminism and embraced it. I found myself surrounded by many women, some who despised feminism and equal rights and some who were part of the feminist movement. All of them confirmed my thirst for showing that women ‘can have it all’. One of my true role models was at the University, my professor in Communications and Feminism, who taught me the essentials of deconstructing stereotypes in media and who guided me on my thesis on ‘The Selection and Construction of Naomi Wolf and The Beauty Myth in Dutch media’.
We all need our role models and different ones. I believe that we will only get to equality if we value diversity. I am humble – and grateful – to see that my daughter and son appear to be very strong and vocal on equal rights. I have faith that they will join me in the quest for equality, in their own ways.
In my current (work) environment I feel privileged to be surrounded by men and women that are role models to me in their own particular inspiring ways. At the IWA we have a programme ‘Women in Water’ and we are preparing new projects in that field. I feel privileged that Friday 7th March on the occasion of International Women’s Day, I will attend an ‘Inspiring Change to Promote Women’s Rights and Dignity’ organised by WSSCC and UNOHCHR in Geneva.
I salute my role models, the ones from the past and my current ones. And I hope – and intend – to be of service to many around me.