The Dutch State Secretary, Kingdom Relations, talks to a forum of powerful women

Alexandra van Huffelen visited the islands last week, she was here 24hours, and stopped at the University of Aruba to speak to a select, invited group, for a Women’s Leadership Seminar.

She started by stating she should not talk but listen, and true to that opening statement kept her address short.

But it was nevertheless very interesting.

Apparently, she was inspired by her grandmother who at a young age gifted her the book by Simone de Beauvoir. The book by the name the Second Sex, written in 1949, detailed the oppression of woman through generations. De Beauvoir, a French writer and social theorist, was one of the first feminist activist, and she became an influential 20th century thinker. She devoted her literary work to defining, establishing, and defending equal political, social and economic rights for women.

De Beauvoir believed women, the way the first-half of the last century knew them,  were formed by society, squeezed into a certain restrictive roll, and unlike men which were given freedom and opportunities, women were expected to do what they were told.

To summarize her beliefs, she is famous for saying: One is not born, but rather, becomes, a woman. Meaning, under social presser women become caregiver and second-rate citizens, conforming to society’s traditionally assigned sex and gender role.

So now we know where Van Huffelen is coming from, from a strong sense that when given radical freedom and equality women rise to occupy their deserving place in our society.

As an example, she singled out MinPres and MinFic and 5 previous Antillean Prime Ministers, Sara Quita Offringa, 17 times world champion, and Virgina, the mythical slave.

According to Van Huffelen, women’s status or position evolved as a result of THREE feminist waves, one in the 19th century then two in the 20th century — the first one in the 60s, the second in the 90s. Those helped women cast off oppression and start defining for themselves, what they want to do and who they want to be.

The term self-empowerment comes to mind. It is a result of previous generations’ struggle.

Van Huffelen is right. Aruba is good for women, most of island female residents find this a good pot to grow in, not without challenges, but female ambition usually pays off here.

So much so, that I often think boys and young men are now the weakest link and must be supported, women are more resilient, they will find their way. It’s about how we raise girls, with expectations, and a long list of chores, while boys we simply adore and admire, calling them Prince. They grow up with a sense of entitlement.

What would Van Huffelen’s speech be, without advice?

The following are the Ten Commandments according to the State Secretary:

Support Each Other, be there for other women

Speak Up, Don’t Be Shy

Wear Bright Cloths, So You Get Noticed

Deliver Above and Beyond Expected

Be Open to Criticism/Feedback

Don’t Take Criticism Personally

Praise Publicly

Critique Privately

Support Single Mother

All we need is good policies and legislation, income equality, more business opportunities, affordable and acceptable childcare, and adequately empowered, we’re out to save the world.

(Note, I said save, not change.)



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June 03, 2022
Rona Coster