By clicking “Accept All Cookies”, you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyze site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts. View our Privacy Policy for more information.

Why Voting for Women Benefits Everyone


Story by:

Interview by:

November 10, 2023

In the Netherlands, women in politics are underrepresented. The elections for the house of representatives in the Netherlands (Tweede Kamer) has seen a 3% decrease in women since 2002, and an 11,7% decrease since 2010, with a total of 31% being women. In local councils in the Netherlands women make up a total of 31,62%. A Lab member and founder of Stem op een Vrouw (Vote for a Woman) – Devika Partiman – and I sit together to talk about the importance of representation of women in our government, why it is beneficial for everyone and how to get more women elected in the house of representatives during the upcoming elections.

Hi Devika, before diving into what you’re doing right now, tell me, who was Devika before founding Stem op een Vrouw?

Originally, I was a festival producer. I studied event management and afterwards worked for several productions like Magneet festival, IDFA (International Documentary Filmfestival Amsterdam) and Roots festival; mainly for events within the music sector.

You were inspired by Surinam to set up Stem op een Vrouw. Could you tell me more about that?

I was visiting family in Surinam and one day I went to a museum. My eye landed upon a flyer dating out of 1996. It read ‘Women make up half of the population, this is not represented in the National Assemblee, so choose consciously, vote for a woman’. It was a flyer created by the Surinamese women organization called ‘Vrouwen Parlement Forum’.

I took a picture of the flyer and back in the Netherlands, its message lingered around in my mind. I was curious about the representation of women in our government. I then found out that the percentage of elected women in our government was really low, which I found bizarre. The elections for the house of representatives almost took place and I wanted to do something about it. I had been an activist in other fields and brought together a small group of people to create a campaign to stimulate people in the Netherlands to vote for a woman. That’s when Stem op een Vrouw was founded in 2017. Ever since, our team and activities have grown greatly. I now have a team of 10 people, and in election times we work with about 30 volunteers!

Why is it beneficial to have more women elected in politics?

The parliament represents the people and should therefore reflect society as it is. Only that way, people will know that they have a voice and that this voice is represented. Research is very clear on the effects: having a diverse group of politicians, and a good representation of all women, created better policies for women and for everyone. Also, everybody deserves to see that there are politicians that look like them and think like them. Especially for children, these types of role models are important.

Right now, the ratio is not balanced. There’s too few women in order to fully deliver impact on decisions considering women - which are basically all decisions - and to always consider the perspective of different women. In addition, there’s little visibility and little diversity within the already elected women.

One could argue that men can represent women. Sure, but when you turn this around and you only have 150 women in the house of representatives, I am sure men will realize that this is not how it should be. Different people compliment each other and representation should be balanced.

I can imagine you often receive criticism from men – and perhaps also from some women about what you are trying to achieve. Which one comment or criticism is one that you would like to debunk once and for all?

For sure that must be ‘Shouldn’t it be about quality instead of gender?’ We must have heard that question over a 1000 times and we have answered it over a 1000 times. I always say: Of course it’s about quality. Why would you vote for someone you don’t think is qualified? Our campaign is not ‘Vote for a woman that you don’t find qualified’.

The collective idea surrounding qualification is usually the problem in this case. It originates from the narrative that there’s just one person on the list that is the best, which would usually be the candidate on top of the list. The problem is that this is not the idea nor purpose of our democracy. Quality in our democracy means that all of the people on the list complement each other. Our message is not to pick a random woman and vote for her, but to choose someone that suits you. And when that person is a woman, you both vote for quality and for more equality. Also, many people have been randomly voting for the leading candidates on top of the list without often really knowing what they stand for or who the other people on the lists are.

So yes, voting is all about quality, but why does that mean you can not vote for a woman? Better representation of all people, makes for better policy. Voting for a more diverse parliament enhances the quality of the decisions made. And so the best thing you can do, is to do your research and find a woman that suits your ideas and values.

No items found.
No items found.

You set up a campaign that spreads awareness about ‘preferential votes’. Could you tell me what this entails and how it will improve the chance of getting more women elected?

People who find it important for there to be more elected women in politics, often vote for the first woman on the list. Of course this is a nice gesture, but that woman is already high on the list and doesn’t need your vote. 

With our campaign we encourage people to vote for women lower on the list in order to get extra women elected to the House of Representatives. So how does it work? First of all, you have to find one or maybe a couple of political parties that you wish to vote for. Second, take a look at the polls. How many seats is your preferred party at? Finally, look into the women below the polled number of seats. They need your preferential vote to get elected. On our website – which is also available in English – you can find an overview of all political parties and female candidates.

Why has the percentage of women in the house of representatives decreased over the past 20 years?

In general, people have actually been voting more for women in the past years. But some political parties - often right wing and/or christian parties - just don’t make finding and attracting women as candidates a priority. It’s exactly those parties that have a low percentage of women on their candidate lists that have grown bigger over the past years. Therefore, the percentage of women decreased.

What is the thing you like most about your job?

Knowing that we are really making a change. Also, I enjoy working with young ambitious women. We have gotten hundreds of extra women elected and politically active. I’ve had many conversations with young people who found out about our voting strategy, and ever since have grown more conscious about the individual power of their vote. They actively do their research and have become more critical in who they give their vote to. That’s something I am very happy to see.

We’re very happy that team Stem op een Vrouw chose A Lab as the place to continue its work from. When did you become a member and how did your choice land on A Lab?

We’ve been here since January 2019. We were searching for a central office space that’s easy accessible. Our eye landed upon A Lab, as it’s right next to the central station. There was an instant click with Lucas, the director of A Lab, and with Ismay, the former community manager. You can really see that team A Lab is enthusiastic about what everyone is doing. You put a lot of effort in creating a space that stimulates progressive ideas and houses progressive organizations. Next to that, A Lab is very flexible in terms of looking for a type of membership that suited our situation, which is perfect for a small and growing foundation.

Have you worked together with other A Lab members?

Zeppa offered to work on our campaign style and website in 2022. We used their frame and strategic tips for our current website so we’re very happy with that. Next to that it’s nice to know other people in the A Lab community who find themselves within the progressive movement - like Hedy Tjin and Arjun Chadha. You know where to find each other, which is nice.

We’re excited about your upcoming event at De Politieke Tuin, De Tolhuistuin, on November 16, 17 and 18. Could you tell us more about that?

The Politieke Tuin is a political space where we host three special election programs with Stem op een Vrouw! Three days in a row, we invite different speakers and female candidates to come and talk with us and with the visitors. On Thursday, we invited women’s organizations Women Inc. and ActionAid to present their analysis on the political parties that are up for elections. They looked at all the programs to see what the different parties plan to do for gender equality. On Friday, we invited Sara Nasrawi. She is a youth representative, and will talk about what is is like to be young and active. And on Saturday we invited Titia Hoogendoorn. She will do a politics-for-dummies speech and will answer all the questions you normally would be afraid to ask about politics. And, all days, you can also meet female candidates from different parties!

What are you looking forward to achieving with this event?

I want to bring people together to have a fun and informal talk about politics and the upcoming elections! And of course, we want people to understand why it is important to look into what your political party has planned when it comes to working for gender equality. Because a lot of political decisions affect women, and women’s rights. But there is very little attention for it. Also I think it is a unique opportunity to meet candidates in such a small space, so you really get a chance to talk to them.

Which other collectives, groups or people should we follow when talking about diversity in politics?

There are many, thankfully! When you want to learn about where different parties stand on gender equality, go to the tools and the Feministische Partijwijzer. When you want to know which parties are up for elections, and are looking for information about their candidates, use the voting help from Stem op een Vrouw (on our home page). Also, these are some instagram accounts to follow: 

Thank you for taking the time to tell us about Stem op een Vrouw. Your passion for promoting women's participation is inspiring, and we hope your efforts continue to encourage more people to support and vote for women. We look forward to seeing the positive influence of your work in the coming elections!

No items found.
No items found.
No items found.
No items found.