An article in yesterday’s Den Haag Centraal newspaper  described the fierce debate taking place in The Hague’s city council over the proposed emancipation plan presented by Alderman Van Alphen. Only the Alderman’s party, Groen Links (the Greens), support the plan. All of the other parties, including those in the coalition council, are highly critical.
I haven’t seen the proposal, but the critique of the plan focused on the fact that ‘the problem of emancipation plays particularly among allochtone (Dutch of foreign descent) women.’ I’m not sure I agree, but it is easy to see why this may considered a major issue in The Hague. 44% of women in this city are of foreign descent. The largest group of individuals that are ‘at risk’, (they are not financially independent and/or are socially marginalized), come from this group of women. Furthermore, allochtonen earn, on average, less than the native Dutch do.
Mr. Van Alphen has € 1.1 million at his disposal for his plan. Already, € 600,000 of that budget goes to two specific institutions which support allochtone women. What much of the rest of funds were dedicated to seems to setting separate meeting areas for these women (as well as supporting an exposition on the issue).
One of the critiques of the proposed plan was the fact that Muslim women are already tend to be isolated in society and that anyway this approach does not address the root causes of the problems which women face. Saskia Mulder, of the PvdA (Labour party) says that if a woman, after having taken a course, still can’t find a job, she gets frustrated. Exactly.
I’m not sure that seeing the issues of emancipation from a native versus non-native perspective is useful. True, first generation immigrants have a harder time of it; they have language, education and cultural barriers to breech. But such first generation immigrants are only a small group among the women in The Hague.
The City Council will discuss the plan officially next week. It will be interesting to see what comes of the debate.
By Diane Lemieux