Why is it important for you to be here this weekend?

This blog is written by Eefje Smeulders, participant Young Feminist Weekend 2019.

From Friday 18 October until Sunday 20 October 2019 28 Young Feminists gathered in Den Haag, where they talked about the question: how can we, as feminists, create real change in the Netherlands? The short answer is: through building communities like this amazing group of Young Feminists. For the long answer, I urge you to join next year’s edition!

The event’s location, a monastery in the centre of Den Haag, was not the only thing that was unique about this weekend: it was the very first time a group of young feminists co-organized this event together with the Dutch Women’s Council (Nederlandse Vrouwen Raad). Add excellent guest speakers, two cats and feminist protest songs about witches into the mix, and you have a perfect recipe for a weekend full of sisterhood, various forms of activism, laughter and autumn walks to the nearby Paleispark.

Throughout the programme participants were invited to take part as a co-facilitator. On Saturday morning the workshop topics ranged from starting your own activist movement, to personal leadership, gender in politics and menstrual hygiene in South-East Asia. These themes also reflect the wide range of backgrounds of the attendees and their involvement in a feminist movement: from professional feminists (working for feminist organisations) to first-time activists and everyone in between, we all learned from each other. During the guest lectures on Saturday afternoon we talked specifically about including every gender in the feminist movement. One lecture was about the effects of toxic masculinity on men and boys. In another session, Essa Reijmers, Blijfgroep shared the challenges of gender-responsive strategies and language in combatting domestic violence on a national and international level. Each session either dealt wirh substance or form, for example, talking about methods and strategies for activism.

During the weekend, we also reflected on our individual motivation for participating in the feminist movement. My answer to the question in the title? Although I had quite some academic knowledge on topics such as gender inequality through my studies in Sociology, I never felt completely certain/comfortable speaking out about feminism in every day life. Sometimes I simply just didn’t even know where to start. During the Young Feminist Weekend 2019 I (re)learned that feminism is first and foremost about sisterhood, about community and about freedom. I learned that everyone can play a role, and that these roles can vary. There’s more than one way to define yourself as an activist. Feminism is a very necessary force for good in the world, whether you’re dealing with ableism, climate crisis or heteronormativity. I’m very grateful to have been given the opportunity to participate in this first edition, because I came home more inspired, more knowledgeable and most of all feeling more part of a community of like-minded souls than ever. One very concrete result of this weekend was to set up an initiative to make it easier for Young Feminists to join the Nederlandse Vrouwenraad in its mission. To be continued. 

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