Dutch diplomat discusses women’s rights

The Netherlands’ ambassador to the United States outlined the worldwide condition of women’s human rights as part of International Women’s Day at the Elliott School of International Affairs Tuesday afternoon.

Renee Jones-Bos, a 28-year veteran of the Dutch foreign ministry, recalled her experiences with women in places such as Yemen and the Congo and passionately spoke out against the violence women face in armed conflict. Jones-Bos emphasized the importance of U.N. resolutions regarding women’s rights but acknowledged that they can only work “if governments put paper to practice.”

Jones-Bos praised the bravery of Justine Masika, a women’s rights defender from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, who had to endure violence as the price for her work. Jones-Bos showed a video of interviews by Masika with rape victims of the Congolese warring factions.

“These are the people we want to help, not only by subsidizing their organizations but also by recognizing them personally,” Jones-Bos said.

The Dutch government awarded Masika with the Human Rights Defenders Tulip, just one of the many initiatives the Dutch government has begun to raise awareness about women’s rights both domestically and abroad. Other programs include training Dutch peacekeeping missions about women’s rights and helping developing countries write laws to protect women’s rights.

Jones-Bos said the Dutch Princess Maxima Willem-Alexander has led efforts to promote development policies worldwide, including encouraging microfinancing programs, which loan small amounts of money to aid female entrepreneurs in developing countries. The ambassador explained that although loans made out to women are often paid back quickly and better invested, in many countries women are not allowed to take part in business or hold property.

The Netherlands has consistently contributed about 1 percent of their gross domestic product toward promoting women’s rights programs. Of that number, about 15 percent goes to education, which Jones-Bos called the “key to gender equality.”

The ambassador also stressed importance of reducing violence against women within the U.S. and Netherlands, citing a U.S. Department of Justice report that found 1.3 million women are physically assaulted by an intimate partner each year – a statistic she admitted is similar to levels found in her own country.

Jones-Bos concluded the lecture by saying that the developing world needs leadership from countries like the U.S. and the Netherlands to “make a difference in women’s lives.”

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