President of the Netherlands Institute for Human Rights (“College voor de Rechten van de Mens”) Adriana van Dooijeweert visited Saba from Saturday, November 23 to Wednesday, November 27 for meetings with local authorities and organizations to discuss human rights related topics. “We are your human rights institute too.”
Accompanied by policy advisor Vlada Burmistrova, Van Dooijeweert had meetings with Island Governor Jonathan Johnson and Island Secretary Tim Muller, the Island Council, the Saba Police Force, the Community Development Department of the Public Entity Saba and several local organizations. She visited the Home for the Elderly in The Bottom. She said the care for the elderly at the nursing home, aside from the fact that the building is outdated and too small, was in order.
Van Dooijeweert attended the “Black and Blue” event of Saba’s Domestic Violence Platform on Monday, November 25, where she spoke about domestic violence in relation to human rights, the importance of awareness and the underreporting of domestic violence as a result of which many cases remain unprosecuted. The Human Rights Institute will give attention to violence against girls and women in its 2020-2024 Strategic Plan.
Two years ago, Van Dooijeweert also visited Saba. “If I compare it with two years ago, I see improvements everywhere. I see a lot of enthusiasm to work together to achieve further improvements,” she said.
Van Dooijeweert said that it struck her that especially local non-government organizations (NGOs) very much depended on incidental funds from the Netherlands. Instead of receiving structural funds, these organizations have to work with project funds, which is not conducive to the continuity. “Many persons in the Netherlands who work with the Caribbean Netherlands dossier don’t sufficiently realize the local circumstances and how these are very different from the Netherlands. They often don’t realize the big restrictions of a small community and what impact this has on the people that live here.”
Poverty on Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba is an important issue for the Netherlands Institute for Human Rights. “The high cost of living, the fact that a large section of the population can barely make ends meet, the shortage of social housing. This is totally unacceptable from the principle of equal treatment. People on the islands have the same human rights as in the Netherlands. Minister Raymond Knops honestly wants to make things better for the islands. He wants to move on this topic, but broader political support is needed,” said Van Dooijeweert.
The Netherlands Institute for Human Rights has a broad human rights mandate, and since its inception in 2012, it is also the authorized human rights institute for the Caribbean Netherlands. Despite its limited budget, the institute tries to dedicate as much attention to the islands as possible.
Van Dooijeweert explained that her organization would like to see the equal treatment law applied in the Caribbean Netherlands. This law forbids discrimination on all grounds of religion, race, gender. It strives for equal pay and forbids employers to discriminate a pregnant worker. “Equal rights should also count for the islands. I always mention the islands in all my speeches. I always try everyone not to forget this part of the Kingdom.”