The first woman premier in the Netherlands? It was 35 years ago in the (former) Dutch Antilles

“Mother of the people” and much loved by her citizens, Maria Liberia-Peters was born in 1941 in Curaçao and was twice premier of the (now dissolved) Dutch Antilles between 1984 and 1986 and again between 1988 and 1994. In fact, it was the first and only female head in the Kingdom, setting a record even compared to the European side of the Netherlands, notoriously considered more progressive and advanced on the subject of civil rights.

According to the Volkskrant, it was the tragic history of slavery that so strongly influenced the population of the Dutch Antilles, and offered women a central position in Caribbean society: “The men were sold, the women were responsible for the family. The idea is still there today,” says the former Prime Minister, now almost 80 years old at the Amsterdam newspaper, “in difficult times you can rely on your mother, your wife or your older sister. ”

Feminism was also felt in the former Netherlands Antilles parliamentary assembly. The premier said that she had agreed with deputies, even from other sides, on a kind of “feminist truce”: no law proposed by one of the elected women be opposed by the others. And so, many of them in order to respect party discipline and maintain freedom of conscience got up and went to the bathroom at the time of the vote.

But the years as premier were not easy, especially for an Afro-Antillan woman sitting at the negotiating table with governments composed almost exclusively of men and exclusively of white Europeans. From the question of Shell refineries rented to Venezuela, to the street protests that marked her years in government, not everything was simple and devoid of controversy.

Today, Liberia-Peters is involved with The Council of Women World Leaders, which includes Chancellor Angela Merkel and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, writes Volkskrant.


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