Even more pictures of today
Btw. here is the speech
05/11/04 Speech by Her Royal Highness Princess Máxima of the Netherlands at the NCEO conference in The Hague on 5 November 2004
Earlier this week, the Dutch film and opinion maker Theo van Gogh was murdered. Mister Van Gogh was known for his critical views and for defending freedom of speech.
This appalling act of violence goes against everything we in the Netherlands and in Europe stand for: that everybody has the right to express their own opinion. I hope with all my heart that this terrible deed will bring us to listen and talk to each other even more. Because dialogue will bring our views closer and help us achieve a new shared identity.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am very pleased to be here this morning to talk about equal opportunities. Equal opportunities not only for women but also for immigrants. The reason I was invited probably had something to do with the fact that I am both a woman and an immigrant.
I came to live in the Netherlands just over three years ago and like many immigrants, what brought me here was love.
People say to me, "Of course, you might be an immigrant on paper. But you're not a typical immigrant." But what is then a typical immigrant? There's no such thing. And there's no such thing as a typical woman either. Of course, we women have much in common. Most of us are experts at combining a job with caring for our families. We've all faced the challenge of trying to have a serious telephone conversation while trying to feed a child. But when we talk to each other about our own situations, we also see great differences.
When we speak about equal opportunities, we often tend to label people. We talk about "the Moroccan man", "the Turkish woman" and "the Muslim woman". That makes the discussion more manageable. But it also creates a risk. The risk that we will start thinking in stereotypes. That we will generalise, and never get beyond clichés. That we will look at women from different cultures through our western eyes, and think that what is good for us is automatically good for them too.
If we do so, we ignore the essential characteristics that make people who they are. A Turkish woman from Istanbul is very different from someone from the provinces. And a Kurdish woman is very different from a woman from Izmir. And when they emigrate to another country, they take their identity with them.
The diversity is even greater when we look beyond our own borders. Every country has its own history of migration and living with other cultures. Diversity is something you have to take into account when you talk about emancipation. And you can't talk about emancipation without talking about participation.
Participation - taking an active part in the society of which you are a member - is crucial. We all lose out when people cut themselves off from the world around them. Because they do not contribute, and their skills and talents are not used. But there is no single map guiding us towards participation. Everyone takes their own route at their own speed to their own destination.
And success often depends on very small factors: personal contact at the baby clinic, in the school playground, at work or in the community centre. Role models and good, inspiring education are just as important. And the most essential thing is trust, an open mind and respect for each other's culture.
We must not think in terms of set patterns, or of collective pathways. There is no such thing as a highway to success. But there are paths that people themselves can follow, with the help of the authorities and those around them.
That is why we should do all we can to remove the obstacles that stand in the way of participation. So that people can find their own path and pursue it. Language courses are vital. And so are good arrangements which make it possible to combine care and work. We also need employers who are willing to foster the talents of their workers so that they have every opportunity to develop.
We still have a long way to go. But I am an optimist. We should be proud of the results we have achieved so far. In the European Union, fifty percent of students in higher education are women. More and more women - including immigrant women - have jobs outside the home.
I very much admire what many women have managed to achieve. I meet women from other countries who, with great self-assurance, are finding their own way in the Netherlands. They are making an extremely valuable contribution to our society. That is quite an achievement. After all, migrants find themselves between two cultures. They are seeking an identity in their new country, without denying their roots. That is no easy task because you often feel torn. Even more reason, then, to give women the space and the opportunities they need to emancipate themselves.
And how do we create these opportunities? That's why I am very happy to be here today. Because here we can learn from each other. Not to find that one size that fits all. But to see whether the solutions we seek have already been found elsewhere in Europe. And in doing so, we need to keep women's tremendous potential in mind.
Like other countries in Europe, the Netherlands is now voting to proclaim the Greatest Dutch person in history. There is only 1 woman in the top 10, I'm afraid. Nearly the same happened in the UK and Germany.
A rather poor result after 1,000 years of emancipation, you might say. But I prefer to see it from a more positive angle.
Great women are those who learn to read and write after they have turned 50.
Great women are those who take the risk of starting their own business.
Great women are those who raise their children with love and care and also participate in other activities.
And great women are the women who have left their homeland to start a new life in a foreign country. Who do not give up when things are difficult but who seize every new opportunity.
They might not be the women you meet in history books. But they are the ones who make our society so rich and they are the women who are educating our future. I hope that your exchange of ideas today will give you renewed inspiration in your work in a changing and challenging Europe.