Arthie Schimmel
Arthie Schimmel

Political Development

Party Affiliation

Profession/ Current priorities

Political Aims/ Priorities/ Assessments




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[ European Commission, DG V ]

© May 2001

European Database: Women in Decision-Making

Arthie Schimmel

D66, Dutch Lower House

Political Development

What made you decide to go into politics?
I started my studies in political science at Leiden University when I was 18, and I thought that with studying politics I also had to be politically active. So I joined the PvdA (Dutch Labour Party, mb*).

Do/did you have a role model?
Well, actually not before I became a member of the Lower House. But when I was a member, I really liked the way Ina Brouwer (of the socialist-environmentalist party GroenLinks, and formerly of the communist party CPN, mb) could bend the discussion to her benefit. Although I dislike the way party discipline is conducted in her party, I liked the way she debated. And also Andrée van Es (also from GroenLinks, formerly from the socialist-pacifist party PSP, mb). And I liked her even before I was a member of the Lower House.

Does political involvement or policy making have a tradition in your family?
Politics didn't end at our doorstep; there was always discussion about politics. But no one was active in a political party.

Have you been engaged in political grassroots activities before your involvement in party politics - e.g. in a citizens' rights, parents or other initiative?
I was politically active at such a young age, that there couldn't really be any activity prior to my political involvement. But in high school, I did write a thesis about women's emancipation, because I was very impressed by the 'Dolle Mina's' (a feminist action group in the early seventies, that tried to bring women's interests to the attention of politics and the public in unconventional ways, mb).

Where there disruptions in your political career path and why?
I took pregnancy leave in 1993 and 1998, although that is officially not possible (pregnancy leave for women in elected office is not granted, mb). It wasn't really a disruption- I got my first child when I was in the Buurmeijer-committee (a parliamentary committee of inquiry concerning the executive institutions of social security). That is very regular work- not so unpredictable as working in the Lower House. And besides that, it was summer recess. My second child I got during the campaigns, and so it was possible for my colleagues to take over most of the work.

Where there disruptions in your biography that have/had an impact on your political career?
No. Not in the way that it changed my power position in the parliamentary party. It had the effect that I didn't apply for other functions within the party, such as chairperson of the parliamentary party, or contact between the parliamentary and the political party. It was a decision I took consciously, because time is limited when you have small children. But I keep Els Borst (the Minister of Public Health, Welfare and Sports, she is 68, mb) in mind; she shows that you can still do interesting things when you are in your 60's.

How and why did your objectives change during your political career?
They didn't. I started with an interest in collective labour agreements and division of labour and emancipation of women, and I am still into these objectives.

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Party Affiliation

Which party do you belong to? Since when?
D66. I became a member of D66, because I got a job as director of the educational centre of D66. I thought I was obliged to be a member. Of course I agreed with the ideology of the party, but I wasn't a party member (the number of members of a political party in the Netherlands is very low. So, it isn't strange for someone with political interests, not to be a member of a political party, mb).

How did you get into running for an office?
I wasn't interested in getting elected in the Lower House at all. When I worked for the Post and Telephone Company, a delegation of MP's visited us, and I got the impression that their work was rather superficial. I didn't like it. But later I became the vice chair of the advisory body of D66, and I thought, let's try a representative function in the lee of the attention- so I became a member of the Provincial States of South Holland. In 1989 the cabinet fell, and soon after that I was called by different persons that asked me to stand for election of the candidacy list (in D66 the members vote for their candidates by ballot, mb). I didn't really expect to be on the list at all, but I was elected ninth.

Did you have mentors within your party?
No.

Did you ever change party affiliation?
Yes. When I was a student, I became member of the PvdA. I had the lowest of the lowest function in the party: representative of the quarter, what meant that I had to collect the membership fee of persons in my quarter that didn't have a bank account (what was very common under the lower class in the sixties, mb). But I really disliked the way the 'new left' men where discussing, and overruling the discussion. They had a very arrogant way to express their opinion and isolating everybody with a different opinion. I hated those men and the attitude of the party in that respect. So I gave up, and ended my membership.

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Profession/ Current priorities

How does your profession correspond with your political work?
Not really. In my earlier jobs, meetings where the beginning of work, and here, meetings are the end. And productivity is really hard to measure here.

Are you linking both your professional and your political career?
Superficially, no, but when I look closer, I would say yes. Especially the work I did at the Dutch Post and Telephone Company PTT. I implemented the equal-opportunities act there. The policy was already there, but it was my task to implement it in the business. In that time, the company was just changing from a public to a private institution, which gave lot of opportunities to change the position of women, especially in the higher regions. I still use my experiences there in my work in the lower house. And of course during the period I was the director of the educational centre of the party, I learned a lot about the political party and the functioning of the political system. What members of the local councils do, and what the advisory body of the parties do etceteras. Every period had contributed to my career.

In which areas do you see your special competencies?
Social affairs, especially conditions of employment.

Which are your political priorities?
Reintegration of people with an occupational disability and emancipation of women.

Which are your main fields of action?
Social affairs.

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Political Aims/ Priorities/ Assessments

Which objectives would you like to achieve through your political work?
A change in the law on people who have an occupational disability - so that the accent of the law is not on keeping (70% of) the last earned income when you have a chronic condition, but on reintegration of people with a disability in one way or another. At this time the unions still have a lot of influence, especially in the way they look at people with an occupational disability - the unions want that they get (a part of their) income. But there is so little attention to the adaptation of work on those conditions- it's only about keeping the income, and not about reintegration in the workforce. And secondly, inspired by my interest in 'Dolle Mina', to help emancipation of women and to improve legislation in this area. It is a pity that the law for pregnancy leave for representatives in the States General didn't make it, but it is back on the political agenda. And maybe the Old Men of the VVD (conservative liberal-party, mb) understand that women have a womb- and that legislation is necessary.

How and why did your objectives change during your political career?
Not applicable- they didn't really change.

Do equal opportunity strategies - in your opinion - have an impact in your country to promote women in decision-making? (quota, EO legislation, etc...please name the strategy)
Not the way it should have. I have the idea that it is standing still at this point in time. And the Government isn't really pushing for more women in the House or in other representative bodies. I worked with Jet Bussemaker (of the labour party PvdA) and Monique de Vries , the present Junior Minister of Transport and Water Regulation, on a motion to ask for more activities in that direction. There was just a report of the execution of the UN-women's VERDRAG of Louise Groenman (of D66, mb) in which she had a long list of things to be done in the Netherlands. We picked the advice that all departments should pick three objectives to improve the position of women. But we have no insight in how the departments want to implement their policy. We had the idea that the departments were still in the eighties with their policy on the position of women. Jet and I planned to ask the different ministers if they reached their policy goals. We don't want to do this via the Junior Minister of Women's Emancipation Annelies Verstand, because she can only say that she co-ordinates the policy, and can't decide for the departments. I think that the Minister Klaas de Vries who is responsible for the policy of the increase of women in political decision-making is very interested in this subject. There has to be more- but the question is how.

Did you benefit from these strategies?
No, I was asked because I was known within the party, and besides that, our parliamentary party has more women then man at this point, so we don't need such a strategy.

How do you judge these strategies?
They are a bit soft, and late. The government doesn't want to force political parties in any way in this matter, with the result that nothing really happens. That should change in the future.

Do you see direct or indirect discrimination in "conventional" policy making?
The strange thing is that we have a law on equal payment for women and men, and that we are not able to make that work.

What is it that keeps women from committing themselves to politics? What are the major obstacles that women need to overcome in their endeavour to participate in political decision-making?
You see it with the youngsters in our party. There are a lot of girls, but they almost never take the floor at first in a discussion, but they have the ideas. I think that that is a problem, also in D66. They participate in the discussion, but never first. And they have no ambition, just like me. And politics as a profession has a very low prestige at the moment.

Which are the obstacles you had to fight in your own political career?
None.

* mb stands for Milja Bos, who interviewed Ms. Arthie Schimmel. She gives brief explanations in brackets.

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