Universiteit Leiden

nl en

Sylvana Simons to give Annie Romein-Verschoor Lecture

Every year on or around International Women’s Day on 8 March, Leiden University holds its Annie Romein-Verschoor Lecture. This year’s lecture will be given by Sylvana Simons, MP and leader and parliamentary chair of the BIJ1 party. What does International Women’s Day mean to her and which challenges does she face as a woman of colour in Dutch politics?

This year’s Annie Romein-Verschoor Lecture (in Dutch) will be held on 11 March. By email, Simons already answers some questions about women’s emancipation.

March 8 is International Women’s Day. What does this day mean to you?

‘On this day we focus on the position of women worldwide in a social, societal and economic respect. Unfortunately, this day is still very much needed because we see that in all these domains women still face structural underestimation, disadvantage and insecurity.’  

What are the biggest challenges for women’s emancipation in the future? 

‘As far as I’m concerned: men. As long as they occupy most of the places where the institutional structures are designed and enforced, it’s their turn: by showing solidarity, prioritising issues and actively making space. But it goes beyond “men” alone of course. It’s about patriarchal beliefs and structures which women often also uphold.’ 

What are the biggest challenges for women’s emancipation in the future? 

‘I hope that men become emancipated so that they no longer hinder women’s emancipation.’

What are the challenges that you face as a woman of colour in Dutch politics?

‘I am a pioneer and the challenge is always that you are doing something new. Doing new things and being an example brings with it an incredible responsibility. I don’t allow myself or others to make many mistakes. I’m aware that all eyes are on me, from both my supporters and my opponents. In addition, I operate in an environment that has never learned how to deal with women like me. The standard reaction is resistance, sometimes bluntly misogynistic and racist.’

What needs to be done to overcome these challenges in the future?

‘More Sylvanas will have to stand up and claim their space. And not just in politics. We need more women of colour everywhere, or rather: non-straight-white-men. In science, journalism, civil society, unions, et cetera.’ 

You receive threats and hate via social media. Where does this come from and is there anything you can do to stop it? 

‘I bring a clear, but uncomfortable message and I belong to (a) group(s) that it is more or less accepted to marginalise: woman, black. My message is often ridiculed until a straight white man says the same thing.

‘It helped that I reported the threats to the police in 2018 and this led to some convictions. It’s decreased slightly since then. Since I’ve been active in parliament, I also get lots of messages from people saying sorry. They discover that BIJ1’s politics are for them too.’ 

Despite the hate, you remain active on social media. Why is this?

‘For politicians, social media is an important and effective way to keep in touch with their supporters. I won’t let bullies take that away from me.’ 

Register for the lecture

Sylvana Simons will give the main lecture at the Annie Romein-Verschoor Lecture this year. Like every year, a speaker will reflect on the main lecture in a short presentation. The speaker this year will be musician, journalist and writer Aafke Romeijn. (The lecture is in Dutch).


Photo: Victor Reinier

This website uses cookies.  More information.