Inspiring Inclusion: Celebrating Female Champions in the Netherlands and the United Kingdom - United Kingdom

Inspiring Inclusion: Celebrating Female Champions in the Netherlands and the United Kingdom

News item | 08-03-2024 | 09:29

On International Women’s Day we highlight and celebrate the work of remarkable women who have made a difference in the Netherlands, the United Kingdom or both. In their unique way, each of these female champions inspires hope and inclusion.

Gender equality is at the heart of the Dutch constitution. Article 1 states:  All persons in the Netherlands shall be treated equally in equal circumstances . Promoting women’s rights and gender equality has also been a focus of Dutch foreign policy for a long time. In 2022, the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced its Feminist Foreign Policy to address global gender inequality. Read more on the Dutch Feminist Foreign Policy here.


We recognise that much needs to happen still to improve and secure women's rights and gender equality globally. We also want to celebrate how far we have come and women and girls who are championing the advancement of women’s rights and gender equality through social, economic, cultural and political change. 





All persons in the Netherlands shall be treated equally in equal circumstances.

Dutch football manager Sarina Wiegman

Our first champion is Sarina Wiegman. Since 2021, she has been the manager of England's women’s national football team, winning the women's UEFA European Championships in 2022. The success of the  Lionesses  has had an enormous positive impact on women’s football: at the top level, but also for grassroots football teams in the United Kingdom and beyond.


Sarina Wiegman advocates for creating the appropriate environment for women to succeed, by, for example, raising awareness for funding more research into injuries and creating more pitches for teams to play on.


For both the  Lionesses  and the  Leeuwinnen , Sarina has shown to be a brilliant coach who inspired many women in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. She is without a doubt one of the most important actors in women’s football around the globe. 



Resistance Fighter Selma van de Perre-Velleman

During WWII, Selma van de Perre-Velleman joined the Dutch resistance against Nazi occupation, delivering food vouchers, documents and packages throughout the Netherlands as a courier under false names. In 1944, she was captured and detained in the infamous concentration camps Vught and Ravenbrück, where she endured harsh conditions. Ultimately, Selma survived because her Jewish identity was never discovered.


In 1945, Selma started a new life in London and worked for BBC Radio. Whilst living in the UK, Selma noticed a lack of knowledge about the history of Dutch resistance movements and concentration camps. She shared her story by writing her best-selling memoir “My Name is Selma”.


Selma was awarded the title Knight of the Order of Orange-Nassau in 2021, conferred to her for her longstanding service to Dutch society. Steadfast at 101 years old, she continues helping others in every way she can. 



Lieutenant General Elanor Boekholt-O’Sullivan

Lieutenant General Elanor Boekholt-O’Sullivan has an extraordinary career within the Netherlands’ Defense Organisation and became the first woman 'three-star general' in 2022. 


Last year, she received the Dutch Top Woman of the Year award in 2023. The jury noted she did not win because she is a woman in a man's world, but because she is a role model for everyone. She is praised by her colleagues for challenging the Netherlands’ Defense Organisation to always do better and be better. And by asking this of her colleagues with bravery, unending energy and an open mind.



Executive Director Lyne Biewinga

Another champion we would like to put in the spotlight is Lyne Biewinga, Executive Director at the Netherlands British Chamber of Commerce (NBCC).


Lyne is the first female Executive Director of the NBCC. She has directed the NBCC Brexit Forum and represented the interests of British-Dutch business to all Brexit negotiators. Her boundless energy and passion for people and companies to thrive contribute to the NBCC's recognition as an effective driving force for British-Dutch business. In November 2023, Lyne received the prestigious award from the UK Department for Business and Trade for her Outstanding Contribution to NL-UK trade and investment. 


Lyne's support for her fellow women in business is exemplary. She organises annual International Women’s Day events to raise appreciation for women in business and launched the NBCC Woman of the Year Award, celebrating female excellence and leadership. 





Dutch female artists

And finally, we turn the spotlight on a collective of champions: Dutch female artists, currently showing their work in London. 


When thinking of Dutch Masters, often only male artists come to mind. To address the persistent gender imbalance in the art world, investing in and promoting Dutch female contemporary artists is essential – it is one of the priorities of the Dutch Embassy in the UK.   


Initiated by Louise te Poele, the project’s curator and artistic director, works by 10 Dutch female artists are currently on show at Saatchi Gallery. Titled Standing on the Shoulders of Giants this show is a symbolic act of elevating Dutch female artists, drawing inspiration from the rich history of artistic giants, such as Rachel Ruysch and Judith Leyster, both from the 17th Century. With the clear intent to reshape the narrative for the current and future generations of women artists. 


The featured artists are Janine van Oene, Iriée Zamblé, Krystel Geerts, Simone Albers, Wieteke Heldens, Maria Roosen, Anne von Freyburg, Lisa Šebestíková, Anya Janssen and Louise te Poele. 


Standing on the Shoulders of Giants, at the Saatchi Gallery.



Investing in and promoting Dutch female contemporary artists is essential