Inclusion; IofC Netherlands Lotty Wolvekamp Reflects on the Theme for International Women’s Day 2024

Inclusion is the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day. Strangely enough it made me think immediately of its opposite: exclusion.

Throughout my life there have been numerous occasions where I felt excluded, both in my private life as in my working life with Initiatives of Change.

As a child I had a cross left eye and had to wear an eye patch for a long time. I grew up in an area where my faith was a different one from the majority. In my teens there was a dramatic family experience which made me ‘older’ than my schoolmates. Children can be cruel when something, or someone, is different and I felt the full brunt of it. So very early on I had to discover what my own personal self-worth was about, whether it was important. It also helped me see that we are all different and that it is ok to be different. All of this would not have happened if faith had not become a very real life line early on in my life.

In analysing exclusion there seem to be two main reasons: fear and power, and maybe often a combination of both. Often it is fear that makes us push other people away. As does power, whether real or imagined.

Eventually during a life long journey this helped me understand that for me the most important value in life is respect. Values like honesty, purity of motive, unselfishness we can decide to try and live out. Love, often called the greatest value, to me is a gift. A gift bestowed when I truly respect other people and am willing to hear their story. Far be it from calling myself a saint, but the truth is: I love people. Hearing another person’s story, trying to understand a life does not mean justifying it all, but it does pave the road that eventually will help build the bridges of trust. Maybe not today, but definitely tomorrow. Is there a better road?

Years ago there was a documentary on Dutch television about a woman in a war-torn situation in Africa. She sheltered many women who were raped, had unwanted children, who were bitter and anguished, with every reason to be so. She challenged them to go deep into themselves, to grab the power that belongs maybe specifically to us women: to give and nurture life, be it physical or spiritual. In so doing she helped restore their confidence to continue with life and find a new path. But, she said: ‘often after a woman had left and my office door closed, I broke down and wept.’

It makes me think of Mary, the mother of Jesus, an important figure in my personal faith. When the shepherds had visited them it says: ‘As for Mary, she treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart.’

Exclusion is other people’s loss. Inclusion is something we can decide to practice, each one of us. It is a precious gift we as women can give. A great theme for International Women’s Day, 8 March 2024!

Lotty Wolvekamp has been a full-time employee with IofC since 1971. She is currently serving as the Chair of IofC Netherlands. We recently had the chance to sit down with Lotty to speak and reflect about her life and time with IofC in an interview which can be viewed on our YouTube Channel. 

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