Blog Young Feminist Europe: More Women in Politics – You Can Make it Happen

I remember watching Hilary Clinton’s concession speech back in 2016 and just being in utter shock and disbelief, although it was not even about my country. As a nineties kid, my parents brought me up with the belief that the world was becoming a better place. When watching the speech, I realized: emancipation is not going along a linear curve, if our attention is slipping away, we’ll be going backward if not forward.

The day after

After the Dutch national elections in 2017, emancipation for women in politics in the Netherlands experienced a major setback. The number of women in Parliament was no longer increasing. Only 36% of our 150 parliamentary seats were taken up by women, at the moment only 31%. This accelerated my activism as a feminist organizer and my willingness to volunteer for my political party. We are not moving fast enough towards a truly inclusive and feminist Europe. 

I have a strong belief in individual responsibility without denying that there are mechanisms holding women back. Currently, as board member of the women’s network of my political party, I am often asked by both women and men: what can I personally do for gender equality in politics? As a person who is either in politics, interested in politics or involved in some kind of volunteering or activism, you have the power to make a real change in getting more women involved in politics. 

“What can I do?”

These are 5 lessons I learned from the Dutch experience and from my own conversations with other women in politics. I try to apply them to my work in politics.  

1) Look around you

Diversity work takes time. If you are striving towards a diverse political landscape, start now. Start looking around for women in leadership roles, activists who are working in their communities, volunteers working on diverse topics. Look for people who do not fit the traditional picture of a politician.

2) Find a space for them in politics

Having a diverse membership within a political party is not enough. A political arena is not a safe space for everybody. I was the first person of my family to go into politics and I was very glad to have found people who showed me the way. You can be a welcoming force for new people. Find a space for women in politics. I always try to ask the question: where will his or her talent grow and thrive?

3) Ask, and ask again

Most women will not voice their ambition, although they may have it. If you want to have more women on your candidate list, ask them. And then ask them again, or let someone else ask again. Let the question simmer for a while and let them think about how it will impact their lives. Contrary to men, most women will not decide on the spot to follow their ambition.

4) Vote strategically

The Dutch grassroots organization Stem op een Vrouw (‘Vote for a Woman’) has been gaining momentum since the national elections two years ago. Their message is simple: decide which party you want to support, look at the polls and give your vote to the first woman who is just under the number of seats the party is likely to get. Often the first or second woman on the list does not need your vote to get a seat, the women lower on the list do. The parliamentary and especially the last local elections proved that the concept worked in the Netherlands. 

In this TEDtalk Stem op een Vrouw founder Devika Partiman explains how she’s changing political by casting a strategic vote.

5) Support women in politics

Women in politics have less sustainable political careers. They lean back for a variety of reasons. Resulting in cabinets consisting mostly of men. We have never had a female Prime Minister in the Netherlands. We can all help to encourage women and appreciate female leaders more. Let us not be too harsh on female politicians, let us not call them shrill or bitchy.

If I may offer a piece of advice for all EU citizens in May: please do as Devika tells us to. Cast your strategic vote for a feminist Europe at the European elections. More women in politics: we can make it happen!

Deze blog verscheen eerder als gastblog voor Young Feminist Europe.

The Feminist Agenda – A Manifesto

Voor de lancering van Feminist Evolution Leiden schreef ik een manifest. Het is voorgedragen op vrijdag 28 september en gepubliceerd op de website van FEL.





The Feminist Agenda

We create a space for feminist thoughts and advocacy in Leiden. We believe that feminist reflection, debate and action will make a significant difference in transforming the world into a better and more equal place for women. This will not be achieved by revolution, but by evolution. By making intersectional feminist thinking accessible to new audiences, by promoting advocacy and feminist work and by providing the tools and the spaces to make change.

The Feminist Evolution will be complete when Leiden is truly inclusive. When women will have equal opportunities. When Leiden is a space where female narratives and voices can be heard. We want to accelerate emancipation in Leiden.

We do this by making a feminist community in Leiden. We bring important feminist thinkers and writers on various topics to Leiden. We provide a platform for (young) female talent. We facilitate debate, activism and a feminist lifestyle in Leiden. Last we connect existing initiatives, networks and events on feminism, emancipation and diversity. Make Leiden feminist again.

Feminist Evolution Leiden presents The Feminist Agenda, a manifesto to make Leiden more feminist and inclusive.

1.Feminism is intersectional and inclusive.

As feminists we see the multiple systems of oppression at work in the world. We see our own privileges and disadvantages. We do not strive for power, but aim at sharing power.

2. We work together in our feminist work.

Live a feminist life together. To achieve a better world, we seek cooperation and connection with others. We believe that feminism not only benefits women, but all genders.

3. We learn together and take the journey towards a more inclusive world together.

Feminism does not have the answer. There is not one kind of feminism, nor a common clear-cut goal. Multiple feminisms work towards making the world more inclusive and equal for women.

4.We are curious about each other and the world.

We see each other as human beings. Connection and true dialogue are vital for a more equal world. As feminists we have a genuine interest in people. We want to understand the world in a more profound way.

5. We facilitate feminist voices and narratives.

Our feminist voices need to be heard in the world. We look out for other women and people in a disadvantaged position by creating the spaces in which their voices can be heard. The world needs multiple perspectives.

We need a feminist presence.  

Find your feminist voice and speak up.

Find your feminist ally.

Create a feminist community.

Feel at home in a feminist world.

A feminist world is a better world for everyone.