It’s Election Day!
Today are the 2021 elections for the House of Representatives (Tweede
Kamer). A House that is still, even in a progressive country like the
Netherlands, mostly made up by white men. But there’s hope: for the first
time ever, there are ten female party leaders!
Why is it so important to have more women in politics? Because
representation matters. Because women’s opinions and input deserve to be
heard. We make up roughly 50% of the population – we should not be
excluded from decision-making.
In a world dominated by men, these female party leaders deserve the
spotlight. Want to know who these power women are? Read on to find out!
Most have heard of D66’s party leader Sigrid Kaag. Kaag, born in 1961,
has an impressive track record. She’s a real career woman and I believe
she’s a real inspiration. Kaag has several bachelor’s and master’s degrees
from universities all over the world, and her studies were mostly related to
the Middle East and International Relations. She has worked, among
others, for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the UN, and Unicef, mostly in
the Middle East. In 2018, Kaag became the first female minister of Foreign
Affairs, when she took over for the minister Halbe Zijlstra, who just got
fired. Now, she’s aiming to be Prime Minister!
Fun fact: Kaag was the first Special Representative of the UN to be
featured in Vogue!
PvdA’s front runner Lilianne Ploumen has only been party leader since
January this year. Ploumen (1962) studied Social History and has worked
for many NGO’s. She worked for the precursor of Plan International, an
organization focused on developmental aid. In 1996, she became the
director of Mama Cash, followed by a director job at Cordaid. She was also
part of several Boards of Directors.
In 2003, she became a member of PvdA, after which her political career
took off. She became party chairwoman 2007, a job she held until 2012.
She is the founder of She Decides, an international organization that
supports safe abortions, sex education, and maternity care in poor
countries. She started the organization in response to the election of
Donald Trump and the implementation of the Global Gag Rule (a measure
that prohibits US government funds from being used by organizations to
perform abortions worldwide).
Fun fact: Ploumen has been elected Most Influential Woman by feminist
magazine Opzij in 2017, 2018, and 2019, in the categories Charity and
SP’s Lilian Marijnissen was practically born into the party. Her father, Jan
Marijnissen, was party lead in 1989 and featured his daughter on the
election poster. Lilian, born in 1985, studied Political Science in Nijmegen
and Political Theory and Behavior in Amsterdam. She has been installed in
the House since 2017 and became SP-chairwoman at the end of 2017. In
June last year, she was elected party leader.
Marijnissen has stated before that she’s conscious of the fact that she’s a
woman in a man’s world, especially during debates. When the other male
party leaders start screaming at each other, she chooses to not participate
in that, fearing it will make her look like the ‘hysterical woman’.
Esther Ouwehand is Marianne Thieme’s successor. Ouwehand, born in
1976, never completed her bachelor’s degree, but instead ended up at the
marketing department of a magazine publisher. She’s been part of PvdD
since its founding in 2002, and has been in charge of coordinating and
building the party since 2004. Since 2006, she’s a Member of Parliament.
She started taking over for Marianne Thieme when she was unavailable
and officially took over after Thieme decided to step down
as party leader in 2019.
Liane den Haan
Another woman with an impressive track record: Liane den Haan (1967) is
the new party lead for 50Plus. Den Haan started off as a nurse before
enrolling in Business Administration. She had several managing jobs in
different organizations, before becoming director of COC Netherlands.
In 2005, she became the Managing Director for ANBO, an interest group
for the elderly. She also holds a seat at the Social and Economic Council.
Fun fact: Den Haan is not new to politics: in 2006, she was D66-council
for the Woerden municipality. A year later, she left D66 to join PvdA. In
2020, 50Plus party lead Jan Nagel asked her to apply as a
candidate for the party leadership and the rest is history.
Femke Merel van Kooten-Arissen
This next lady is no newcomer to politics: Femke Merel van Kooten-
Arissen started off with PvdD in 2015 and has since then switched parties
several times. After PvdD, she became a member of 50Plus and Party for
the Future, before setting up her own party Splinter in December 2020.
Splinter focuses on voters who are green, progressive, liberal, and socially
democratic. She wants to move away from identity politics and pitting
people against each other.
Van Kooten has a Bachelor of Laws, and also studied Dutch Language and
Culture and Philosophy. She’s also the one that pitted the motion for the
bonus for health care workers!
Esther van Fenema
Van Fenema (1970) may be a little unknown, but this psychiatrist turned
politician has an impressive track record. She is not only a psychiatrist, but
also a writer, a columnist, a violinist, and the co-founder of political party
NLBeter. NLBeter consists of people with a background in health care,
and the party’s main focus is improvement of (mental) health care.
Fun facts: Van Fenema founded the Muziekpoli (Music Clinic) in the
LUMC hospital in Leiden, which focuses on musicians with mental
problems. She was also involved in the organization of the Depression
Gala and has written several books.
Caroline van der Plas
BBB used to be known in the Netherlands as the killer workout for your
3B’s (benen, billen, buik/booty, legs, and belly), but in this case, BBB
stands for BoerBurgerBeweging (Farmer Civilian Movement), of which
Caroline Van der Plas (1967) is the political leader. Van der Plas has a long
history working in agriculture, but she started off as a journalist for several
newspapers and media outlets. When she started working for Reed
Business, she got to know the agricultural world and its farmers. Slowly
but surely, she became the frontrunner for farmers, and gave them a voice
and, eventually, a political party. She did all that, while dealing with the
death of her husband. This strong woman definitely deserved a spot in
I don’t think Sylvana Simons needs an introduction, as everyone has heard
of her, but here we go: Simons (1971) was born in Suriname, but moved to
the Netherlands with her parents when she was 1,5 years old. She
graduated from Theater School and worked as a dancer with CB Milton
before focusing on radio and tv. She was a VJ for music channel TMF and
has hosted several shows with other tv channels, along with presenting
several radio shows. Simons wrote several books and columns, and has
designed clothing before becoming politically active.
In May 2016, she joined political party DENK, but left it again at the end
f the year because she didn’t feel safe with the party. She founded party
Artikel 1 but had to change the name after she was sued by another
organization named Art. 1. The name was changed to Bij1.
Simons receives a lot of criticism and threats online and offline. This went
to such extremes, that, in 2016, twenty people were convicted for those
threats and hate messages.
Anna Zeven started off as part of VSN (Free and Social Netherlands).
However, at the last minute, she split with the party and founded Lijst 30,
together with Willem Engel (yes, the one from Viruswaarheid). After the
elections, the party will be renamed to Hart voor Vrijheid (Heart for
Before becoming politically active, Zeven was a coach focused on healthy
living, mindfulness, and inner and spiritual growth. She wrote a book and
gives lectures and workshops. Completely different from being a Member
of Parliament, but Zeven looks to be ready for the change!
And that concludes it, the list of the ten female party leaders!
You may have noticed that we didn’t include any info on the women’s
fashion styles, even though Borrow A Brand is a fashion platform. That’s
because at BaB, we care about equality: bios of male party leads never
contain info about their clothes or hairstyles, so why include it in the bios
of the female leaders?
Are you voting female? Type ‘YES’ in the comments if you do! #thefutureisfemale
*Please note that the order of the list was completely random and that Borrow A Brand does not favor one party or party leader over another.