Meet the 22 women who were chosen out of 75 nominations.
If you scroll down the page, you can read each individual special life story.
I have learned that what seems impossible, often turns out to be possible.
Antoinette Verbrugge (1959, Terneuzen) lives in Wijk aan Zee, is an activist, citizen lobbyist and fights for clean air, clean water and a fertile earth for this and future generations.
She is not alone in this; what was first an enthusiastic group became a movement: “Tata Steel presented us as a group of 'complaining women', but our actions are now on the fixed agenda in the boardroom.”
Antoinette knows the daily practice of the sickening emissions from the steel factory, she is also often nauseous from the stench and suffers from the unhealthy dust and noise. She knows that children do not grow up safely, is aware of the polluted dunes, of the poison in the sea and the unacceptably high cancer rates. She herself also received complaints. Then it was a choice between moving or campaigning. She opted for the latter and jumped into the deep end when she first reported the matter to Tata Steel's executives: “Someone had to do it, I didn't want to feel cowardly or afraid of the reactions. After that report, I thought: everyone should know what is going on here, we have to do it bigger.”
Something had to happen that would set a precedent for Tata Steel and all major polluters. Together with other fighters, she approached criminal lawyer Bénédicte Ficq. Since then, the genie has been out of the bottle. More than a thousand people and ten foundations joined.
Recently, the Public Prosecution Service announced that it is starting a criminal investigation into 'the intentional and unlawful introduction of hazardous substances into the soil, air or surface water.' Under her own name HEALTH ON 1, Antoinette works together with all kinds of parties: “We will save all together: all polluters will be dealt with one by one, soon only clean production will be done. Point!"
Its mission requires commitment and trust, inventiveness and patience, courage and sovereignty. “Sometimes you first have to experience everything and overcome barriers in yourself. But if you do that, a world opens up to you that was closed before.”
Nothing is impossible.
Tasar Isskreah (1974) lives in Langedijk and comes from Syria. She is a writer, English teacher, columnist and social interpreter. She was unable to find a job in Syria because of corruption. She said goodbye to her family and settled in Dubai until she had to leave. In the Netherlands, Tasar applied for asylum at the AZC in Ter Apel.
She had sleepless nights to start over with her two sons. Thanks to her inquisitiveness, perseverance and support from others, she has made her dreams come true. She settled in North Scharwoude.
Tasar sees the road she travels as a relay race. Within three years she learned the Dutch language, passed her State Exam and her teacher's qualification, her driver's license and swimming diploma. Tasar currently works as an English teacher at Horizon College in Alkmaar. She feels at home in the Netherlands.
Out of gratitude for all the support she has received in the Netherlands, she wrote a biographical book; "Golden Scars of My Heart". It is an inspiration for other refugees to start a new life. “You have to dare,” Tasar says.
Because as a single mother she also fulfills the role of father, there is little room for rest. Yet Tasar feels that motherhood is a sacred role to be allowed to realize.
She feels young and full of energy and thinks that women are mentally stronger than men. To all women Tasar would like to say: "have faith in yourself - always keep evolving- and believe that you are good enough!"
Elly de Waard
I am myself
As a writer, Elly de Waard (Bergen, 1940) is one of the founders of Dutch pop journalism. From 1968 to 1986 she wrote about it in the Volkskrant and Vrij Nederland.
Elly de Waard is also a poet and with her work argued for more space for lyrical poetry in which feelings are expressed in a more direct way. Because she took this position, she opposed the established movement of the 'Fifties'.
That was not always appreciated. Because of this, she was often mocked for who she was, what she wore and what she wrote. According to Elly, being a woman has not helped her with that, on the contrary. Women who were recognized in poetry were few. It was mainly a male stronghold.
In the 1980s, Elly contributed to a wide spread of feminism. She also thought this was important from a social point of view, otherwise the profession as a writer or poet is independent and 'in itself'. In this way she could also be socially helpful. Elly de Waard was active in the women's movement. She led a poetry workshop for the Amazone foundation in Amsterdam, which resulted in the group 'De Nieuwe Wilden', a group of female poets.
Elly de Waard also took the initiative to establish the Anna Bijns Prize, a biennial award for the female voice in literature, as a counterpart to the P.C. Hoofd prize, which was mainly given to men. "With a lot of guts and bravado we succeeded," Elly said. She was involved in this until the 1990s. Unfortunately, this prize no longer exists, a more conventional board has taken over and changed the rules so that men could also receive the prize.
In that sense, Elly is not hopeful for the future. “It's unfortunate and worthless. Women are still second-class citizens, it's even worse. Women have less rebelliousness in them and that is a great pity". To the younger generations, she would like to say 'Look what we have done, and above all draw your own conclusions'.
Rita Gemerts (Paramaribo, 1966) has been developing, setting up, coordinating and executing sports activities for more than 30 years, especially for the elderly and adults with a small budget. She calls herself a social entrepreneur.
Rita is a real connecter. With her company 'RAY-action Sport en Movement' she connects people from different population groups and backgrounds through sports.
For example, Rita has set up walking groups in Amsterdam North, where she also lives, to connect old and new residents. "This way you learn from each other." Rita enthuses people to exercise more and thereby also stimulates mental health. As a single parent, she raises two daughters, both adults now. She is committed to inclusion and equality of opportunity for children and young adults with disabilities. Her youngest daughter has a mild intellectual disability.
She thinks it is important that her daughter can continue to develop. Opportunities that are not currently available. She and her eldest daughter take over many care tasks. Rita's motto is: Mentally limited but unlimitedly strong towards adulthood!”.
About gender equality, Rita says there is still a lot to gain. "It's a man's world," she says. As a woman you must have the space to be a woman. She has suffered a lot in the past because she is an 'incest survivor'. By being open about this, she hopes to help break the taboo so that other women no longer have to remain silent out of shame or powerlessness.
I was able to take my chances
Gerda Sonnevelt (1948, Alkmaar) started at the age of 15 at the former Hoogovens. Gerda currently lives in Beverwijk. She was a cleaning lady, delivering coffee in the business school cafeteria full of "binkies." Gerda remembers the awkward comments and wasn't sure how to deal with them. At the age of 19 Gerda had a child that she partly raised alone with the help of family, because there was no childcare then.
Gerda became a member of the Trade Union and elected to the Consultative Council. At some point, the cleaning work would be outsourced to a cleaning company with poorer working conditions. “I then saw the injustice done to women in a broader sense.” With the support of the women's group of the FNV, she campaigned with 500 cleaners.
Gerda ran for the Works Council and was chosen as the only woman among 26 men. “I had to keep myself standing between the men's stronghold. I remember the first meeting where I happened to hear the chairman say, "Now we have a woman and she's a cleaning lady too!".
Gerda was given the opportunity to study within the Hoogovens. She followed the HBO training 'Personnel and Organization'. It was the union culture in the metal, where power traditionally lay with the men. There was a strong macho mentality.
Gerda specialized further and gave training with a focus on social skills, assertiveness, conversation and communication techniques.
In collaboration with the Women's Group Union within the FNV, Gerda compiled a Black Book in 1982: a book about sexual harassment in the workplace that also received national attention. The complaints led to regulations within the organization with legal penalties against sexual harassment.
Gerda has now given lectures and courses about sexual harassment throughout the country.
The fact that cross-border behavior is still topical leaves Gerda speechless: "It seems as if the wheel has to be reinvented!" We were trying to make visible what a 'so-called joke' does to someone else. What the long-term effect of cross-border behavior is."
Life is much more colorful than you think
Rosalie Groenia (2003, Alkmaar) lives in Schagen and attends Regius College. She is a member of the GSA; the Gender Sexuality Alliance: this is a group of students and teachers who champion inclusivity and acceptance, including sexual and gender diversity. Everyone at school should have the freedom to be who they are. Without having to be ashamed for it, because: “You are beautiful the way you are.” According to the GSA.
The group organizes all kinds of activities and thinks about the anti-bullying policy at school. Every December, the GSA organizes 'Purple Friday'; the big day of action to pay attention to sex and gender diversity. When she became a member, Rosalie was one of seven students affiliated with the GSA. Within 6 years the group has grown to 40 students. There are now team leaders and 3 permanent members working in the school: “That is really great, and makes the organization run a lot more smoothly!”
Rosalie herself was bullied a lot at school in her youth and was never really accepted for who she was. So she knows all too well what it's like not to be given the space to be who you are. That was one of the reasons for Rosalie to become involved in the GSA.
Rosalie also regularly writes articles for the Purple Friday Newspaper. The newspaper is written especially “for and by students” and was ordered by 352 schools last year.
At first Rosalie was afraid to speak out, but at the same time she also felt more and more free. “Fear is a bad adviser. If you're afraid, you should do it." Rosalie got this from her grandmother.
Rosalie has now become the face of the GSA through which many people know her. “I do it consciously for the greater good and that means that I can bring up the courage”.
Recently Rosalie has also been involved in the Municipality of Schagen, where inclusivity is high on the agenda. She contributes ideas on how municipal policy can be made more accessible for newcomers, the hearing impaired, the visually impaired and the LHTBIQ+ community, among others. According to Rosalie, there is an increasing social awareness that we do not live so black and white. “Life is much more colorful than you think!”.
Rosalie would like to teach others to really fight for something you believe in; Change the world, start with yourself!!
Everyone is equal
Mieke Spoorenberg (1922, The Hague - 2006, Deventer) lived in Ursem during the war where she worked as a nanny. Mieke has been nominated by the Noord Hollands Archief for her contribution to the resistance during the war.
Mieke Spoorenberg was the chief courier. She cycled between 60 and 100 kilometers daily, with weapons, documents, medicines, cigarettes and bicycle tires intended for the armed resistance in West Friesland, the Zaanstreek and Amsterdam. During the war in North Holland, Mieke contributed to the liberation of the Netherlands at the risk of her own life.
The role of women in the resistance has until now been an undervalued aspect. A new look at history shows that women too were invaluable in the fight against the German occupier. The deserved recognition for her contribution is the reason that Mieke Spoorenberg, despite the fact that she is now deceased, is part of the exhibition Outright Outspoken
Mieke is 84 years old. She was a strong, open-minded woman; character traits that undoubtedly helped her during the war.
People were very fond of her, she made contact quickly and helped others. She met her husband during the war in a ditch, hiding from the Germans. She married him in 1952 and together they had four children, two daughters and two sons. She was a warm and special mother, you could tell her everything and she always support you, according to her family. Until her death, Mieke was a caregiver for her youngest daughter, who had Down syndrome. In this too she was ahead of her time; Mieke took her daughter everywhere with her and ensured that she was given every opportunity to develop. Discrimination was a swearword for Mieke: Everyone is equal!
As a woman you make work more humane
Pauline (1980, Den Helder) works for the Royal Dutch Navy and lives in Alkmaar. Pauline has held various positions within the Navy, including Head of Logistics Service on board of the ship Zr.Ms.Rotterdam, where she worked until recently. "You are a team and you experience a lot with each other, that creates a special bond.”
Yet Pauline also has her reservations; “It really is an organization 'by men and for men'. That means that men are predominantly at the top. This permeates all layers of the organization. “If you look at a room full of men, it has a demotivating effect; you think, never mind, this is not for me! You keep your mouth shut because you have a different view of things." According to Pauline it must become more attractive to women if the Navy wants to meet the now mandatory women's quota. The way the organization works is too old-fashioned, according to Pauline.
Despite the fact that Pauline is given the same opportunities within the organization, the system is simply not responsive to the (different) wishes of women. If you want to make a career as a woman, you need to focus more on things that are obvious to men. There are many assumptions about how women want to work. As a woman, after the birth of a child, you are often kept out of ‘the sailing planning' for a number of years, often without being asked, while some women would like that. Moving on to higher positions also takes a lot of time; 'that can be done much more efficiently'.
Pauline has few role models within the organization and finds that a real pity. There is only one woman out of 10,000 employees she sees as an example. Pauline thinks it is important that women really use their (privilege) right to learn, study and work. Pauline also feels that it is time for a change.
She herself has also changed. She noticed that she used to be more adapted to certain manners. It was only when she came to work in a department where more women worked that she realized how far removed from herself she had become. “You also just want to fit in and be "one of the guys".
Pauline feels that as a woman she has a valuable contribution to the Navy; “As a woman, you make work more humane. Men tend to talk less about personal issues”.
There are now more developments within the navy to make it more inclusive and diverse, but a lot still needs to change.
You can't get me over
Johanna Kraus (1947, Rotterdam) lives in Castricum and is a nurse teacher. Johanna worked for many years in Tanzania and India with her ex husband, who was a doctor. They were sent out together by Memisa, Medicus Mundi, a foundation that was founded out of the need to provide medical care to Dutch missionaries abroad.
Johanna worked in Tanzania as head of the local midwives training. Through contact with the indigenous population, she gained knowledge of native customs, the male-female relationship and well-functioning natural healing methods. Back in the Netherlands, she taught development issues at the Havenziekenhuis.
In addition, Johanna started studying theology. However, Johanna's vision clashed with the vision of the study, which she found mainly 'too one-sided and masculine'. In this way she started her own specific interest in feminist theology and she immersed herself in the feminine aspect of God on the basis of the Marian apparitions with their meaning for the time in which we now live.
She wrote a remarkable book: 'The hidden Task of the Divine Mother in the outer darkness' (2019) from her acquired esoteric knowledge of important figures and their incarnation lines to date.
In the 1970s, Johanna had to fight for many things that have now become normal for many women. Her children (then 3 and 5 years old) were kidnapped because of her decision to divorce. As a result, Johanna had a difficult time ahead of her due to a series of difficulties with authorities; child protection, youth care and health care.
For 45 years Johanna has been researching the underlying forces behind healthcare, theology, people and the world. Mainly through personal experiences, Johanna has come to see through the history of humanity from within.
In 2014 Johanna founded the Caelum Foundation in Terra (Heaven on Earth) and is currently very active in realizing a new global center 'Divine Life for all religions'. This live-live-work community is focused on the realization of the universal human values: Love, truth, right behavior, non-violence and peace.
Johanna organizes lectures and activities with an emphasis on connecting professionalism and spirituality.
Go to battle if you have to!
Mareike Bestenbreur (1948, Haarlem) is an “adventurous feminist sports nomad”. Mareike currently lives in Tuitjenhorn. Mareike started at a young age with sports such as gymnastics, swimming and canoeing.
Mareike became 20 times Dutch Champion in five different sports: canoeing, roller skiing, cross country skiing, ultra running and mountain running. She ran 236 marathons and many urban and mountain trails.
Mareike loves challenges and even ran 100 or 200 km ultramarathons. She could only run these long distances by going into a trance, then she ran purely on intuition.
As a woman, sports was not always appreciated. Some people tried to drive her into the berm while walking or threw things at her. That was very distracting, but she never gave up!
It is not so long ago that the necessary changes have also been made in the field of sport regarding equal rights for men and women.
Mareike was the last “forbidden woman” in Sweden to participate in the Vasaloppet; the largest cross-country event in the world, where women were not allowed to participate. A 90 km cross-country marathon.
Mareike let nothing and no one stop her. In 1980, with a big red mustache, bought in a party shop in Alkmaar and her long red hair under a hat, she still took part in the Vasaloppet under the name of a friend.
Mareike then overtook more than 7,000 men before her illegal participation was discovered at the finish. It immediately attracted the attention of the press. The organizers immediately disqualified her. It was probably the last push to change the entry rules. In 1981, women were allowed in this race.
Mareike was actively involved in political feminism and the Dolle Minas in the 1970s; that was a well-known left-wing radical feminist activist group, founded in 1969. She wanted to improve the rights of women with playful actions. Now it was the women who whistled at men and slapped them on the buttocks. She thought it was a very nice time with a lot of love and togetherness.
During that time, Mareike also saw a lot of the world and traveled alone to India. With a big pillow under her long hippie dress. For example, she pretended to be heavily pregnant to prevent assault on trains and buses.
I pass the torch
Femke Wijdekop (Amersfoort, 1979) lives in Alkmaar and is a legal advisor and communications officer at Stop Ecocide Nederland. The word ecocide refers to the widespread damage, destruction or loss of ecosystems. It literally means "killing our home", namely our common home, the Earth.
In 2010, the now deceased visionary and British lawyer Polly Higgins launched a campaign to make ecocide a crime at the International Criminal Court. At the time, Femke worked at The American Book Center in Amsterdam and came into contact with Polly Higgins' book Eradicating Ecocide.
Femke felt immediately addressed by Polly's words and especially by the good legal solutions she offered. She decided to dust off her legal knowledge and to interview Polly for her radio program on Amsterdam FM radio. Femke experienced that she was activated from within to join the movement to criminalize ecocide.
Polly spoke from deeper wisdom, not judgment. She spoke from a deep understanding of how life is intertwined, and from this loving wisdom she touched people's hearts and moved people."
After her introduction to Polly, Femke started working with her actively to make ecocide the fifth crime against peace. Femke now works for Stop Ecocide Nederland. It gives her great satisfaction to do work that connects with society and that contributes something positive to society.
There is currently no bill on the table in the Netherlands to ban ecocide. A room majority is needed for that. In Denmark, Belgium and France there is parliamentary support for a legal ban on ecocide, the international movement has contributed to this. The European Parliament also supports the international criminalization of ecocide.
“You hope that as much environmental damage as possible can still be prevented and that we will relate to nature differently. The main issue now is how we can recover from a distorted relationship with the Earth and give concrete form to the awareness that the Earth is not an 'object' that we are allowed to exploit, but a living organism of which we are part, and where we have to take care of."
Stop Ecocide works with diplomats, politicians, lawyers, business leaders, NGOs, indigenous and religious groups, influencers, scientists and grassroots organizations, citizens and a wide network of allied groups to achieve this.
Gaby van Wonderen
I decided to make the most of my life
Gaby van Wonderen (Alkmaar, 1979) lives in Bergen and has founded her own company since 2016; Love Not Waste; a source of inspiration for individuals and companies, to show what is possible with plastic waste. Love Not Waste is a cheerful campaign agency that organizes team outings, clean-ups, campaigns and inspiring sustainability projects with companies, schools and the local government.
Gaby also helps realize sustainability programs for companies and gives advice on circular production, the reuse of raw materials and waste flows and reducing CO2 footprint.
Before starting her own company, Gaby was already fully engaged in sustainability as a buyer at HEMA & Bugaboo, such as solar-powered printing and furniture made from recycled materials. But Gaby wanted to achieve faster and more in this area.
Just then her father passed away. Despite the great sadness, he also became her great source of inspiration.
“When he died he said to me; I don't regret anything. I immediately reflected that on myself and then decided to make the most of my own life.”
In her spare time, Gaby can be found a lot on the beach and in the sea as a wave surfer and has often participated in beach clean-ups. It was therefore a very logical step to combine what she actually liked the most; combining her enthusiasm to keep beaches clean with her knowledge of sustainable production.
Then Gaby developed a plan to travel in a van along the Atlantic coast for one big cleanup tour from the Netherlands to South Morocco. Cleaning up litter as a group. Good for the environment and for the team spirit.
During the tour, Gaby gained the necessary experiences that ensured that she could offer very targeted programs in the Netherlands and that Love Not Waste officially became a company. She does this in her own unique way in which positivity, playfulness and hopeful developments are central.
The best of these actions? “The sense of responsibility and enthusiasm that arises on such a day seeps through to larger circles. I now even organize clean-ups for companies and children. It's no longer reserved for angry environmentalists, it's for everyone and knows no boundaries.”
It has now become a well-run company that she can be proud of and which is received with great enthusiasm. "I create an environment for myself where I can do my best as a person and create value."
I decided to take control into my own hands
Dani Jašarević (Enkhuizen, 1983) is founder & co-owner of FITGIRLS and Fitmind Academy. She is NLP Master Coach, Orthomolecular Detox Specialist & Holistic Therapist i.o.
In 2014, Dani Jašarević founded FITGIRLS. FITGIRLS is a wellness & lifestyle platform where experts and experiential experts in different fields connect and empower women in all areas of their lives. Dani and Lizzy, (her partner) share the same mission: to inspire and help women to take control of their well-being and happiness.
Dani did not always lead a healthy life, on the contrary. From a young age Dani struggled with various illnesses and complaints of which doctors did not always know what the cause was. The turning point for Dani came during her burnout and her daughter's very serious and incurable illness; Cystic Fibrosis. When she heard that her daughter had a limited life expectancy, her life came crashing down, but at the same time her life was turned upside down. She felt a kind of fire welling up and from that moment on she decided to take control into her own hands to get fit and healthy and make a difference.
“It was the fire I needed to change. From my childhood I had the feeling that I had to fight to survive and to meet the expectations of my environment. My body was weak from chronic stress and it made me sick.” From that moment on, Dani started to delve into her personal growth and what she needed to achieve physical, mental, emotional and spiritual balance.
Because she was getting better and better, she felt a strong mission to help other women too. So Dani started her own company from scratch. She bought the domain name Fitgirls, and turned her walk-in closet into an office. "I was so proud! For the first time in my life I felt that I came into my own."
Dani wrote recipes and articles about a healthy lifestyle and started working with all kinds of big brands. That's how the collaboration with Lizzy started. Then it all went very fast, within six months they had 30,000 followers. Meanwhile, Dani has increasingly specialized in writing programs to coach women. Programs designed on balancing energy systems, inner transformation and authentic leadership. With this in mind, Dani also started the Fit Mind Academy, which focuses much more on the holistic aspect of health.
Converting the negative into the positive
Lia Kooijman (Rotterdam, 1956) set up the 'Heart for Breast Cancer' Foundation in 2007.
Before Lia started her foundation, she worked as a promotion officer at the Volunteer Center and then as an Extraordinary Officer of the Civil Registry at the municipality of Castricum and the municipality of Velsen. Lia is very creative, everything she sees with her eyes she can make with her hands. That creativity has helped her immensely.
In 2006, Lia and her mother had breast cancer at the same time. Her grandmother also died at a young age. That period was very tough. During the treatment and operations, Lia also lost her father.
“At that time, there was not much support or aftercare for cancer patients or relatives. People often found it too difficult to talk about it. Because I really missed that support myself, I wanted to do something with it.”
In between surgeries, Lia started with a few design sketches. She drew a heart. If you turned the heart around it was like two breasts. She thought that was a wonderful symbol to make jewelry with, to support other patients. Lia: ”I dedicated the symbol to my deceased mother and grandmother.”
It was still a big job to get her design into production, but despite the many setbacks, she felt she had to do this, as if it was 'her mission'. Step by step, Lia managed to create a high-quality jewelry line, set up a website and get media attention. Lia now works with a team of eight women who help her make and sell various jewelry.
Lia's team visits markets, fairs and KWF Cancer Research related events throughout the country where she offers the jewelry for sale. The pink colors with which the stall is decorated symbolize its foundation. She has since raised more than 40,000 euros. All proceeds go entirely to breast cancer research by KWF Kankerbestrijding.
Lia is now enjoying her life immensely. “The foundation has given me so much that is indescribable. The reactions of people when I speak, I can get full. That I can mean something to someone, that is the best thing it has brought me because the powerlessness of cancer is the worst. With this jewelry you give others a helping hand and that is so great.”
The world is not linear
José Hoekstra (Soest, 1962) is an experienced client support worker and teacher at the recovery and self-management center De Hoofdzaak in Alkmaar. José is co-organizer of Crazywise Conference, a conference that wants to give space to an alternative view on psychosis.
After José completed her studies in cultural anthropology, she set out on a world tour. During a meditation retreat in India she experienced a spiritual awakening. The experience overtook her so much that she ended up in psychosis. It was a combination of euphoria and fear; everything seemed to be connected and at the same time she lost herself.
Back in the Netherlands, José developed a bipolar disorder with a strong psychosis sensitivity. The psychoses were sometimes so strong that she had to be admitted to the GGZ.
The focus of GGZ was on a medical approach: treating with medication and accepting the fact that you have a chronic illness. There was little room for self-reflection. Because this approach did not give José any tools to work on her recovery, she started her own search.
José started reading many books and found recognition in the book Spiritual Emergency by the American psychiatrist Stanislav Grof. This book helped her understand that she was in a process of spiritual and emotional development.
In addition, José started taking various therapies. José came into contact with the healing power of nature, rituals and shamanism. Precisely by looking at herself and dealing with unprocessed traumas, in combination with specific medication, her situation improved enormously.
As a result, José felt a very strong 'female primal power' that enables her to live in a healthy and happy way.
“There is a very over-simplified view of psychosis as if it were all just nonsense and madness. “José is convinced that if you want to understand psychosis well, you have to be able to see the relationship between the content of psychosis and someone's history.
From his own experience, José is convinced that from equality, connection and cooperation, much more can be achieved in healthcare.
“It is important to stigmatize people less and to create more space.”
By joining Crazywise Conference, she was able to express her mission to draw more attention to the other side of psychosis. That these can also be seen as an opportunity for growth, or even transformation.
Annet van der Tweel
Free, autonomous and a bit rebellious
Since 2008, Annet Van Der Tweel (Amsterdam, 1971) has been a herbalist and teacher at Het Kruidenrijk in the four-year vocational training course. Annette lives in Hoorn. With great pleasure and enthusiasm she passes on her knowledge and rich experience with herbs and their healing power. In addition to treatments with herbal preparations, Annet uses quantum touch, Bach flowers, cell salts, foot reflexology and oriental massage.
In 2004, Annet started a course 'handling medicinal herbs' without any knowledge. Annet had no affinity with herbs at all, let alone know what to do with them. Her garden consisted of tiles from which she, like many, took out the 'weeds'.
During the course, the tiles had to make more and more room for 'green'. Meanwhile, Annet's entire garden is full of special plants. In her house you will find a room full of herbs, tinctures and oils.
During the training Annet experimented more and more with tinctures, ointments and herbal teas that she made herself. She was always amazed at the positive result. It is now an indispensable part of her daily life. For example, from nettle, plantain and cleavers, she makes a tasty soup full of vitamins and minerals that you can hardly find in your normal vegetables due to the development of monoculture.
Annet once wanted to join the police, the army or become a fighter jet pilot. Annet applied to the police but was eventually refused admission because she did not yet have enough life experience. Now Annet can no longer imagine a job with the police, she is so happy with her current job. Annet can help others to regain their own (female) power and to trust their intuition.
“For centuries, women have had an enormous dose of primordial knowledge”. Annet would like to bring this to the fore. “We can go back to a time when we are closer to nature, taking care of Mother Earth as she also takes care of us.”
Sometimes Annet is called a 'witch', but she takes it positively, 'because witches are actually very wise women'. “If you stick your head above the ground as a woman, you will soon get the stamp witch”. In that sense, not much has changed compared to the past.” The power of herbs is hardly recognized and often seen as quackery, while people always used these medicinal herbs from prehistoric times up to the 18th century. Fortunately, the interest in herbal medicine and wild harvesting is enormous. All courses are full every year.
Treat others the way you want to be treated yourself
Yvonne (Heemskerk, 1955) lives in Velsen-North. For Yvonne it goes without saying that you are there for someone else who needs help. “The most important thing is that people get along well with each other. If people are willing to help others, you create a more pleasant living environment. Treat others as you would like to be treated.”
Yvonne enjoys nature and feels a deep respect for life. “I see that Someone has put us here on this earth with a loving plan. Our Earth is the only planet that can sustain human life. That shows that we were placed here for a special purpose."
Yvonne would like to see the whole world. Her husband is less fond of travelling, which is why Yvonne likes to travel with one of her two sons, to Thailand for example.
It is clear that she has a good relationship with them; her youngest son Oscar has nominated Yvonne for 'Outright Outspoken'.
Yvonne has had, as she says, "just like almost every woman", to deal with incorrect behavior. Partly because of this, she taught her sons to treat women on an equal footing.
Her sons had to treat girls with the same respect as if they were their own sisters.
It is clear that family is important to Yvonne. She cared for her demented mother for many years. “It goes without saying that you do that, but it was mentally very tough…..Alzheimer's is so degrading!” At one point, the care for her mother was inadequate and she was forced to be admitted to a care home.
“The moment to take her there was terrible; you really feel like a Judas…she didn't know much, but she knew that something wasn't right when we left. It really felt like betrayal.”
Yvonne looks back on her mother with pride. “She was open-minded, helpful, sociable and had a fantastic sense of humor. She could often act crazy, she was straightforward and stood her ground. Despite taking care of her four children, she did things her own way and had her own will. She was attentive to the needs of those around her who needed help.”
Yvonne recognizes herself in her mother and is happy with that, because partly because of her example she is also independent and she wants to mean something to others.
Show your talents
Monique Bonsen (Haarlemmermeer, 1965) has been mayor of Koggenland since 2020. Koggenland is a municipality of 14 villages located between Hoorn and Heerhugowaard.
Monique studied law at the University of Leiden and worked as a lawyer, mediator and partner in the field of employment law. This combination of knowledge and experience has helped her in carrying out her duties as mayor.
“As mayor, you have many powers in the area of public order and safety. Lawyers are used to delving into extensive files and know that they always have to look at the case from different perspectives.”
A mayor has many different roles: administrator, figurehead and 'mayor'. The combination of empathy and decisiveness appeals to her. “As mayor, in most cases you are more of a process monitor and you supervise careful decision-making in which you want to represent the interests of different parties. You need managerial sensitivity to feel what fits. You then have to talk to each other and be able to listen to each other well. Don't run ahead of the troops and throw rocks into the water sometimes."
Monique really thinks being a mayor is the best there is. “It is a complex function, an intellectual challenge and you are close to the people. I am very curious about what drives people. The proximity in Koggenland is strong, you speak and care about each other with respect." This humanity is an important value in which Monique recognizes herself. “People from Koggenland like to solve their problems themselves. They prefer to be 'normal' because that is crazy enough.
Speaking up or making yourself visible is not exactly the norm. The number of female mayors in the Netherlands has generally increased, but has not yet equaled the number of male colleagues.
In North Holland, 5 of the 17 mayors are now women. Monique does think it contributes to being mayor as a woman. “Women are more likely to be associated with harmony.” However, she must also assert her authority in her position. Monique has noticed that if she does, she is then often treated differently or derogatory remarks are made. She herself thinks it is important to bring up such incidents, but not to dwell on them. "It's important for women to step forward and not show false modesty, that's not good for anything."
She also wants to say to women; “Show your talents”.
Everything is different
Sylvia Tervoort (1978, Alkmaar) lives in Castricum and is, as far as she knows, the only female (maritime) salvage inspector in the world. Sylvia was interested in technology from an early age and, as a maritime officer, was able to combine this with discovering the world around her.
She was the only woman in her class to actually sail on the merchant navy. It is a world where private life and work communicate with each other in a different way. There was no internet when Sylvia started and the fax was still very expensive. She says that a close bond often develops in the team of people who sail on sea-going vessels. “Fortunately, I realize that I was really seen as a member of the team, just because of my work. Anyway, in the man's world, unfortunately, it doesn't completely rule out indecent proposals. It would be nice if more women worked in this sector.” In her opinion, women are more ethical, more sociable and can place things in a different context. In order to keep a broad view herself, Sylvia studies cultural sciences in addition to her work.
Sylvia has worked for Smit for almost 14 years; one of the largest maritime salvage and towage services in the world. There she led major international salvage operations. “No storage is the same. It is quite a puzzle to keep the overview and to get everyone on the same track. It is a specific workspace where various aspects stand side by side: environment next to technology, legal and commercial next to operational. Good cooperation comes in handy here too.”
Bringing an overview in chaos is what Sylvia likes best. In addition, every place in the world has specific properties that make each puzzle unique.Sylvia is now working as an independent salvage inspector or maritime advisor. According to Sylvia, the operational work and the office are often too far apart. She likes to combine the practical and the administrative side with each other. “I was sometimes seen as critical, but fortunately there are parties who see this as an advantage that I can now work well with.”
Sylvia's motto is that anything is possible: “No problem! But, keep it simple!”.
Being a woman in this world is challenging, but the lines are now shorter, and the appreciation greater. “May I invite the ladies?” she adds.
Symbol for the 'origin' of North Holland
Hilde is a young woman between 24 and 30 years old, who lived in the fourth century where Castricum is now. Hilde was found near a settlement that consisted of at least two farms with outbuildings and a small grave field with 8 other deceased. In the immediate vicinity, indications were also found for the presence of a settlement from the second and third centuries AD.
Hilde's discovery showed that people lived longer than previously assumed in the delta of the Oer-IJ. This is special because little is known about the 4th century. Hilde is an example of a find of great significance and therefore became a symbol for the 'story' of the origin of North Holland. Ten years after Hilde's discovery, a facial reconstruction could be made based on her skull.
Archaeologists know that Hilde lived at a time when people grew their own food. Remarkable was an unhealed fracture in her arm and that she was buried alone, on her stomach. Another interesting detail was a necklace she wore with a unique and rare combination of beads. This may mean that she was not a poor woman.
Every province in the Netherlands has to keep the archaeological finds made within the province indefinitely, so that everyone can study the finds over and over again. Changes in technology also change the information obtained from the excavations. Through isotope research one can now tell which traces have been left behind in a skeleton and where it comes from.
It thus became clear that Hilde is probably an immigrant from Germany (around the Harz Mountains) where she lived in her youth before she left for the western Netherlands. The province of North Holland wants the heritage to be experienced by residents. Huis van Hilde was founded for this purpose in 2015. It consists of two parts: the archeology museum that is open to the public and the archeology depot.
Huis van Hilde was nominated in 2017 for the prestigious European Museum of the Year Award. This is partly because the museum focuses on the prevention of stigmas through imaging. According to Anouk Veldman (museum manager and senior archaeologist), the museum looks closely at the finds and what they show, instead of making assumptions about gender roles, for example. “Women might as well have played an important role in uprisings and battles or were involved in hunting and fishing. Archaeological research has never proved otherwise. Women's names also indicate strength and prestige.”
Martha writes, Martha enjoys and Martha dances
This is how Martha prefers to describe herself. Martha Douwma (50+, Uitgeest) is a single breadwinner and educator.
Her father used to be her biggest role model. He worked, started learning and made a career. She associated herself more with him than with her mother, aunts and their contemporaries who effaced themselves in her eyes. When Martha looks back on her childhood, a girl should above all not be too outspoken, but gentle, friendly and harmonious. At school, Martha was told off because she couldn't do needlework. Martha was a happy and playful child and was happy to jump a ditch with the boys outside. She was dreamy, which also led to questionable school advice. School did not see her talents.
Martha was eager to learn and was unconsciously influenced at home by the magazines lying around her family. She devoured her grandfather's magazines. Stories of infrastructure, architecture, rescue operations, which were exciting and complex. In her grandmother's magazines, she read about social structures that deviated from the traditional. Inspired by Iteke Weeda; a sociologist, publicist and (former) professor of emancipation issues.
Martha lived in Uitgeest and felt like an outsider. She did a lot 'different' and did not aspire to get married right away. She was looked at on her husband because he was from Africa. When that didn't work, she kept her divorce to herself. She did not want to come across as a sad single. She proudly raised her two children to be independent open-minded sympathetic boys. Because of this she cherishes a huge appreciation for all single mothers and breadwinners. "What a bunch of women they are!"
She finds the idea that only a family is the ‘cornerstone’ of society, complete nonsense. You can connect so much with others around you and they all become 'extended family'.
Martha likes to write. ’ I let my voice be heard and hope to activate the inner strength in others. Traditional gender roles and expectations don’t fit today's reality and many women struggle with this as a result.
At work, at a sustainable energy company, Martha is vocal. She is the only woman in a team with men and therefore knows how to gain an equal place with a good sense of humor. She strongly repels misogynistic and inequality and in that way stands above it. ”Seriously raising awareness is sometimes difficult, due to a lack of recognition and acknowledgment.”
I'm on my way
Houriya Abbou (1978, Taourirt) lives in Alkmaar. At the age of 15 she left Morocco for the Netherlands (Meppel) to build a new life there with her then husband. She wanted to be independent and develop further, but once in the Netherlands her dream turned out differently than expected.
She describes the first five years as traumatic. “Civic integration was actually more about surviving in difficult circumstances, without support from family and friends or having no connection with society”. She didn't know anyone, spoke no Dutch and after 8 months, Houriya had a miscarriage. Circumstances put her in an unsafe situation. Contacts with home were broken. She was on her own.
“But,” she says forcefully, “I don't accept victimhood, I know I'm responsible for my own happiness, so I knew I had to make sure I could figure it out myself.”
She secretly went to school to learn Dutch when her husband was at work. Because she was a good learner, she was able to take shift classes. That allowed her to also learn other subjects like math or simple things how to fix a tire. As the youngest in her family, she didn't have to help at home and so had never learned to take good care of herself. Houriya was able to do an internship in education at the Steiner School. There, a teacher took Houriya under her wing. “She was like a mother to me and saw my qualities. I was able to supervise children well, bake well and make music. Just like the children, I was stimulated to get the best out of myself and learned to develop further there.”
In this way, Houriya received the necessary support to take further steps. Together with her son she left for Alkmaar and sought help from ‘The Women’s shelter’. Houriya was promised a house of her own and could start over. Through her son's school, she came into contact with other women who were in similar situations. Houriya noticed that many women needed connection and were open to new experiences. These were not only Moroccan women but also women from Bosnia, Serbia or the Netherlands.
Houriya and 12 other women set up the 'Women and Power' foundation based on this need. This foundation organizes activities, training and meetings for women where safety, trust and connection are paramount.
“Working independently, health and friendships are important to empower yourself. Only then can you mean a lot to others. You are number one. If you are doing well, you can enrich your own life.”