Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls

  Today, November 12 2017, the well-known presentator Leila Prnjavorac read one of the great Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls in a gigantic bed in the Public Library of Amsterdam. It was a great act to observe, especially at the moment that all the children imitate the ‘camouflage’ that Queen Nanny (1686 – 1733) taught the Marrons at Jamaica to protect themselves from the English ennemy. See and enjoy the youtube I produced about that particular story (in Dutch, click on the image):

The book Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls has now been translated for Dutch children under the title Bedtijdverhalen voor Rebelse Meisjes. The stories of 100 special women are described in a nice, easy-to-go way in combination with beautiful and colorful images.
Is it possible to be inspiring and practical on a simple page? Yes it is.
For example the book describes the story of an Irish girl who wanted to be a sailor and a pirate. When her father told her that her long read hair would get stuck in the ropes of the sails, she just cut her hair off, leaving her father no other choice than to take her onto the ship. Girls learn that there are solutions to problems they might face and that they can take action all by themselves. And they see what can be achieved. The Irish girl ended up being personal friends with the Queen of England she initially fought against. It is a joy to read the different stories of the book, with women from all over the world, from many cultures.
No shortcomings in this book then? Yes, but just one. The choice was made to describe also the stories of women still alive. That always comes with the risk that they might still do less heroic things after the story was written. For example Myanmarese Aung San Suu Kyi is in the book as a Nobel Price winning political hero. However at this very moment her Nobel Price is heavily discussed due to her negative role in the immense drama of ethnic cleansing of the Rohinya in Myanmar – not exactly the good night story one would choose for one’s kid to tell…
However, this is a minor shortcoming that still leaves 99/100 inspiring stories in the book. Therefor I warmly recommend it for all rebel girls >>> and their mothers!

Bedtijdverhalen voor Rebelse Meisjes
Geschreven door Elena Favilli en Francesca Cavallo
Uitgegeven 2017 door Rose Stories

Another blog you might like: Puteaux: a French world in pink and blue
Or this one: Left Handers Day and high giftedness

Dead Aid in Malawi

dead aid  Dambisa Moyo is an economist, born in Zambia, and the author of the New York Times Bestseller “Dead Aid: Why Aid Is Not Working and How There Is a Better Way for Africa”. In the past fifty years, she writes, more than $1 trillion in development-related aid has been transferred from rich countries to Africa. Has this assistance improved the lives of Africans? No. In fact, across the continent, the recipients of this aid are not better off as a result of it, but worse—much worse. Dead Aid offers proposals for developing countries to finance development, instead of relying on foreign aid. If you don’t know about her ideas yet, find more at

Walking around in Malawi, that is among the 5 poorest countries in the world and relies for more than 50% of the national budget on external donors, her book becomes a living truth. The police here is paid by the English, treatment against aids for over 300.000 people is paid by the Italians. On every corner a charity can be found but there appears to be no economy. Moreover, the harvest has failed in large parts of the country so that hunger is expected the coming months for over a million people here. I have never been in a country that was more desperately seeking for aid, and that donors feel compelled to give aid to. The words of Dambisa Moyo that aid is an addiction, both for donors and for receivers, can be seen in practice here.

Many workers ‘in the field’ realize that aid, after fifty (!) years of aid already, is not the right answer for the problems of Malawi. A totally different approach is necessary, but they are squeezed between the two groups of aid-addicts:
1. The donors on the one side who want to answer to immediate needs of the Malawi people in the same way they always did, and who in many cases pay their salaries and the means they work with;
2. The Malawi people on the other side for whom it has become completely normal to rely on external sources and to ask for more, as much as possible, and who knock directly on their door.

However, things are going to change. The publication of Dead Aid a few years ago was a first sign. The economic crisis in the West, that brings new ways of thinking not just about the western world itself but also about ‘the way things are done’ in relation to the rest of the world, is a second sign. And for everybody who is travelling in Malawi, subtile notions are there that the acceptance of whites will not be so big any more in the years to come – like it happened in other southern African countries already; that is a third sign.

The situation in Malawi is absolutely an example of Dead Aid; may it also become an example of the solutions that Dambisa Moyo has proposed in her book, at a short term notice…

Other blogs about this theme:
Aid for orphans in Malawi
Millennium village
Pigs, kids and why it works in Malawi
Self help Africa

Neelie Kroes saves us from Mercer’s way of analyzing women’s fate

Applause for Neelie Kroes, the Dutch European Commissioner who can translate women’s affairs in real issues instead of traditional conventions. Two days ago, Mercer published another of its research results: women in top positions and at middle management level earn less than men: in the Netherlands 14% less. That is a lot for the same work!
In a blog a few weeks ago, I already criticized Mercer for its way of analyzing research results. To explain the fact that there are few Dutch women in top positions, Mercer found excuses like these and I quote my former blog: ”The Netherlands is a progressive nation but, like the UK, has very high levels of women working part-time”. However the UK still has a score of 28% of women in top positions, much higher than The Netherlands. Half of the high educated women in the Netherlands do not have children and do not work part time… so that can’t explain the figures.
Now how does Mercer analyze the new research results of women earning 14% less that men? Merel Verwoest, Head of Reward Consulting Benelux at Mercer explains that although discrimination could be the case, it is also because women quitted work for a few years to care for their children and that they work parttime more often than men do. Oh boy… here we are again… Mercer is fixated on women having children and working parttime….
A better reason Merel also gives is the fact that women in the Netherlands are more often into marketing or HR, functions that pay less than direct operational functions. Nice that they add this, but apart from this it it tiring to see Mercer repeat old-fashioned arguments again and again.
Neelie Kroes, commissioner in the European Union, was on Dutch television today and she was asked for her opinion about this subject. She came up with an explanation that showed much more insight in the matter: ‘women are less able to negotiate about salaries’, she said. Simple and true, applause for Neelie Kroes to be direct and concrete like always! The word ‘able’ in the negotiation is well chosen because it is two-sided. Any man with a parttime job and children will still obtain the maximum salary, but women don’t. Money is not about children or parttime work, that is a political correct excuse used by people who ‘do not want to accuse anybody’; like Mercer.
Neelie Kroes is not accusing anybody, but she helps us further by just telling the truth and encouraging society to learn something. If Neelie Kroes was not yet European Commissioner, Mercer should ask her to be their new top manager; they’d definitely learn and flourish that way.

Other blogs you might like:
The daughter also rises
Few Dutch women
Women entrepreneurship: trade mission to Turkey
Simone Veil: une vie
Powerful photographs for women

Iron Lady – too soft a movie

Iron Lady is a surprising, rather disappointing movie. Years ago, I read Margaret Thatcher’s biographie. I found it very interesting to read about her own views on what she stood for and how she wanted to achieve her goals. She was one of the first women at the international stage. In the Netherlands, until now, we never even had a female Prime Minister. So Margaret Thatcher is a woman we can learn something from.

In the movie The Iron Lady, however, we learn little about her views; the movie doesn’t even explain or pay any attention to the question how she could achieve at all to become Prime Minister as a woman in an ‘all men’ environment. On the contrary, we see most of the time an old woman who is having memories about her past life in short parts and sketches. She is already confused in a starting dementia, imagining her deceased husband around her most of the time and talking to him, sometimes even thinking that she is still Prime Minister.

In the various scenes about her life we see in the first place a woman who is Prime Minister, rather than a Prime Minister who is a woman. The focus is on her style much more than on her ideas, policies, views. Especially for a Prime Minister who lead a country through many changes, this is a surprising and also disappointing focus.

Research has shown that this treatment is reserved especially for female ministers. Journalists for example ask them two to three times more often about their private life and children than they do to their male colleagues. When they report about women in government positions, they report first of all about their style; however for their male colleagues, the main attention is paid to the content of their politics.

Nobody can say that Meryl Streep did not do a good job, because she was brilliant as ever. But she is not responsible for the script that chose to show one of the most influential Prime Ministers of the 20th century from a vulnerable side that is at least partly based on phantasy of the maker rather than as a strong and powerful person with ideas and the competence to realize them. Let’s hope another, more visionary movie maker will stand up and do the work that the Iron Lady movie has neglected to do.

Other blogs you may like:
Turist and the myth of heroism
Lore movie that silences the public
Simone Veil: une vie

Egypt Arab spring or winter?

Egypt Arab spring or winter?

Who ever is looking outside today in Europe, is looking at a frozen world. Life is cold and hard these days. Who wants to be outside? People have been freezing to death out there!
The weather in Egypt is warmer but the climate is even colder than in Europe. The people of Egypt suffer but there is one big hope: they protest. They are aware of their situation and demanding their rights. For sure their road is not going to be easy. That is a sad but realistic conclusion after a spring and summer full of aspirations for a quick and smooth improvement of democracy and freedom. The revolution of the Egyptian people has entered a winter that is not finished yet.
It is strange to see what the signs for a long winter can look like. I noticed that today, in the aftermath of the terrible events in the football stadion of Port Said where 74 people died and hundreds were wounded. Many people blame the government but it is the Egyptian Football League that has been suspended indefinitely. There will be no football matches until August.
August is summer time! This message makes it clear that the political fight is tough and will take a long long time before winter withdraws. The Romans knew this already: that the last thing a people has, is food and games. When the people have no power, the least they need is food and games. If you want to stay in total power and be undemocratic, you have to give it to them. In Egypt, the people are not just deprived of power, they are now also deprived of games. This means the oppression is more than average and lead by leaders who did not learn anything from ancient times – and also that the period to come is going to be severe on the people, and that the people are not going to accept it.
I just wonder: how many deaths and wounded to go the coming period? Will this be the Egypt Arab spring of winter? How much organized destabilization that will be very difficult to repair in the years to come? Still I do believe in the strength of a people who dream and hope and never give up…

Other blogs you may like:
Never ever give up
Freedom Day Northern Cyprus
Portrait du décolonisé
‘Why are people like this?’ Boualem Sansal
Veilophobia, veilophilia; the great debat about the Muslim veil
Politics and diversity in your organisation

The daughter also rises

the daughter also rises  Under the title The Daughter also Rises: Women are Storming Emerging-World Boardrooms, The Economist describes how in the emerging world women come up to be great business woman at the highest levels in economy. Indeed the figures are spectacular, turning the results of the Dutch traditional approach for women in business into the useless methods of an emerging country, with formally emerging countries way ahead of us, see
Seven of the 14 women identified on Forbes magazine’s list of self-made billionaires are Chinese. (…) In China, 32% of senior managers are female, compared with 23% in America and 19% in Britain. In India, 11% of chief executives of large companies are female, compared with 3% of Fortune 500 bosses in America and 3% of FTSE 100 bosses in Britain. Turkey and Brazil come third and joint fourth (behind Finland and Norway) in the World Economic Forum’s ranking of countries by the proportion of CEOs who are women. In Brazil, 11% of chief executives and 30% of senior executives are women.”
Compare with Dutch figures: 9,2% female chief executives and part of them are not even Dutch from origine. It is always good to have the figures in mind before telling what many Dutch business men say: ‘we support diversity but quality comes first‘ resulting in inadequate use of female talents in The Netherlands, less than almost anywhere. The daughter also rises is more like wishful thinking in the Netherlands….
I really like this comment of the article, I quote again:
‘Am I the only one who finds it ironic that two of the most sexist, anti-feminine countries on Earth, India and China, who go as far as to abort female fetuses, are showing some of the most progress in terms of allowing women into the upper levels of business? It seems so odd that cultures that value women less than men, in fact referring to daughters as burdens in many cases, would be able to lift “the glass ceiling” faster than Western countries that supposedly value equality. Hopefully this will lead to improved attitudes towards women in general in emerging markets, and women in business in the developed ones as they compete with more female led companies from the Global South.”
And then this beautiful comment, as the article accuses the United Arab Emirates wrongly: “How can they (women) stay on the fast track if, as in the UAE, they cannot travel without a male chaperone?” by
“Women in the UAE can travel without a chaperone. This is not Saudi Arabia. I suppose the authors got their countries mixed up. The UAE is probably the most liberal of all the Gulf states. Women do everything by themselves in the country. They can drive, travel, start a business, liaise with NGOs or the government, take up any career. You name it. They can do it.”
Ah, the complicated world of diversity… I would be so much more simple if every region would stick to certain rules for sexe, culture and the like. But they don’t! And that is so much more fun! That is how we can challenge each other and learn from each other, cross regions and cross countries, to increase common happiness and wealth worldwide.

You might also like these blogs:
Neelie Kroes saves us from Mercer’s way of analyzing women’s fate
10 children and a PhD!

How much spring is the Arab spring?

how much spring  How much spring is the Arab spring?

During the last months, many politicians and journalists have started to discuss the depth of Arab spring; is it a spring at all? They are cynical because they did not see the Arab world change at once. Hope grows a bit now that Khaddafi is in his final moments, but scepticism is still there.

In an earlier blog I already adressed the one-sided knowledge and expectations politicians and journalists have about the Middle East. Their attitude concerning freedom and democracy in the Middle East is confusing.

Everybody knows that freedom does not come at once and is never for free. The same thing goes for democracy. Why on earth do people expect Arab countries that have suffered from lousy dictators during many years to be free and democratic just in the time of a blink of the eye, as by divine commandment? Once the dictators are gone, Arab citizens will still have to fight for freedom and democracy, maybe not with arms but the benefits will not just drop from the sky without human efforts and even sacrifices.

Another thing is that this is an Arab and not a western development. The outcome of Arab ‘spring’ might be a different ‘summer’ than western observers expect. This is what happens when people start to create their own destiny. I am very curious to know what the Arab world will look like in two years!

Another interesting blog: Egypt Arab spring or winter?

Freedom Day Northern Cyprus

Freedom Day Northern Cyprus

freedom day    freedom day    freedom day

Today I met with an old Cypriot friend. He sees his identity in the first place as Cypriot, then also as Turkish Cypriot. We saw each other in the center of Girne (Kyrenia) in the very North of Cyprus where the celebrations for the freedom of Northern Cyprus, the Turkish side of Cyprus were fully happening. 20th July 1974 the Turkish army started their action to take over charge of this part of the island, a peace operation in the eyes of some, an illegal invasion in the eyes of others. This date is now called Freedom Day.

Many people came today to the harbour of Girne for Freedom Day to see the military flight show that was indeed impressive. I tried to take some photographs but the jets should have slowed down a bit for more successful pictures – you see some poor results above this blog, couldn’t do any better sorry.

Discussion was heard whether showing freedom by military force was:
1. a male expression of freedom – women would show it otherwise
2. a middle eastern way of expressing – western europe would show it otherwise
3. a way to impress and frigthen the Greeks – in this version, the jets first made a tour around the green line to make the Greeks nervous before arriving in Girne for the show
4. just fun – it was indeed a perfect and exciting show
5. a way to make the Turkish Cypriots feel safe: look how much power we have, and we protect you

My friend as well as many other Cypriots was desillusioned when there was the UN-referendum for the unification of Cyprus in 2004 and the Turkish Cypriots said yes while the Greek Cypriots said no. Strange enough the Greek Cypriots were consequently rewarded by EU membership and the Turkish Cypriots were left out. Time will show whether this was the last (spoiled) opportunity for the Greek Cypriots to restore a common Cypriot identity, above national ‘homeland’ feelings and group identities. The North of Cyprus is now developing as a more independant Turkish identity, mainlanders start to live there and bring an ‘all Turkish’ culture in – the Turkish Cypriot identity is hardly surviving in these circumstances.

When I met my friend earlier today he asked me ‘did you really come over to see this event?’. I said in a joking tune, I wouldn’t miss any opportunity to celebrate Freedom Day on Northern Cyprus. ‘Oh, I feel so free’ he said. He didn’t travel for many years because the Turkish Cypriot passport would not be recognized by any country but Turkey. The Greek Cypriot passport does not apply. And he refuses to ask for a Turkish one that indeed he can obtain and that will be recognized. His identity does not formally exist.

The Turkish army, I do believe that, has guaranteed safety for the Turkish Cypriot community here. But after 37 years they are still on this island because the necessary followup – the political and economical support for Turkish Cypriots – was never realized.  So the question is not: why are there military flight shows on a Freedom Day? But the question is: which politicians and entrepreneurs will bring better alternatives for Cyprus – when?!

Other blogs you may like to read:
Gaziantep castle: panorama and nationalism
Gaziantep war museum
Alaniçi: moving memories of 1955 – 1974 (5)

Herring Party in Dutch version

herring partyHerring Party in Dutch version

The hall was full of hundreds of visitors yesterday at the Herring Party in Amsterdam, mostly white men in blue and grey suits. The atmosphere was good and lively. Apparently everybody was happy to see new herring come in. I saw some business relations here and there and had a nice chat, then I met up with a few black women (yes, they were there although a tiny minority). Like for me, it was their first herring party and none of ours knew where this tradition comes from, what it means. One of them looked it up at Google but all she found was lots of other herring parties mentioned. Nothing about history.

Why not Google myself? I tried and found that the Swedish have their own herring parties:
Surströmmingfest – fermented herring party.  Not for the faint-hearted.  This herring is sealed in a can and fermented to a very ripe stage.  Its either loved or hated and has a very pungeant smell, although those who like it say the taste is heavenly.  Mostly eaten in the North of the country or at the coastal regions where they are fished.

After struggling my way through indeed loads of parties, even in The Netherland Club of New York tomorrow, June 16th (see, I finally found a (Dutch) page explaining some things about history:

Herring parties mark the date that the first vessel of herring is brought into the country. In the Dutch Golden Age (17th Century) herring was both an important food product for Dutch people and an important export product that contributed to our wealth. Export was made possible by techniques invented to keep and transport the herring. At herring parties the herring is still presented in this original way.

So maybe we cannot find who started the parties, but we know now what they mean to be: a good party where people can enjoy the new herring. And indeed that mattered to the public yesterday: at least twice I was roughly pushed aside by elder men when a tray of herring was presented. It was like an attack to the trays from all sides… Strange because these men were not poor, they could afford to buy some herring themselves if the party wouldn’t provide them with enough herring (although there was plenty all the time). Anyway I thank the organizers for a new experience in a new world, all together it was kind of anthropological research and big fun!

Other blogs you may like:
Archaeological Museum Haarlem
Gay Pride Canal Parade 2014
Adam Tower: a must-visit
Keukenhof: 7 million spring-flowering bulbs

Perceptions of Power

perceptions of power  Perceptions of Power

People who break the rules are perceived to be more powerful, according to a recent study ( Powerful people smile less, interrupt others, and speak in a louder voice. When people do not respect the basic rules of social behavior, they lead others to believe that they have power. Isn’t that interesting!
It is told more often that power is not something that people have but something that is ‘given’ or ‘contributed’ and that is opening up possibilities… Perceptions of power can be influenced!

People without power live with threats of punishment and firm limits. People with power have a very different experience of the world than people without it, the article mentions. The powerful have fewer rules to follow, and they live in environments of money, knowledge and support. It is not difficult to see this pattern in daily life. However it is not a guarantee for an unlimited free road: Strauss-Kahn is one of those who has just found his road blocked although he belongs no single doubt to the top of the world of money, knowledge and support.

Because the powerful are more free to break the rules – does breaking the rules seem more powerful? Yes it does, rule breakers are seen as more in control… “Norm violators are perceived as having the capacity to act as they please” write the researchers.
Isn’t this encouraging for all those who feel or are less powerful? When power is a perception, it is more possible to acquire it than when it is a formal thing. And the road to it is nice, breaking the rules can indeed be great fun – especially when you do it together with friends!

Creating and influencing perceptions of power is not an easy game, you need a good strategy. Think before you act and when you act, don’t be upset by the reactions you get! Standing way above those reactions after having broken the rules will strengthen the perception that you are powerful: good luck!

Other blogs you may like:
Women, be the leader you want to be
Powerful photographs for women
Iron lady: too soft a movie