Action for Gender Equality Conference: Keynote Speech by Marja Bijl
Dear friends, sisters and comrades,
It is an enormous honour to be standing here, among you, so many strong friends, some of whom I deeply admire. Thank you so much for inviting me in this beautiful part of the world and in this beautiful country that is so near to my heart.
I must have been 6 years old, I had just started primary school, when I told my grandmother very firmly: I am going to be a teacher when I grow up! Mind you, it wasn’t just the new teacher that I liked, I was fond of my grandfather and he was the head teacher of the school. My grandmother laughed and told me that she had been a teacher before her marriage and that it was the best profession and that she had loved it. I asked her; ‘ so why did you stop being a teacher?’ She then explained that she had to, women were not allowed to work in those professions after they got married. I don’t think I was very shocked at the age of 6 and when I was around 12 it still didn’t anger me. My grandmother was old, that period was far behind us, like in the dark ages or so. But it wasn’t the dark ages. I was born in 1956, and up untill that year married women were not allowed to work, and had to ask their husband permission to buy household appliances or even clothes. They couldn’t get money from the bank, according to the law they were not competent to do all this without their husband’s consent and autograph. So that situation is not thát long ago, at least I consider myself not thát old….. Needless to say that when I did realise, it infuriated me, women were considered incompetent and therefore second class citizens.