Audio 3: Seeking Shelter in a Man's World
Transcript: I'm Ronja Bruijns. I am with Den Haag Bij Een, it's a political party in Den Haag, in The Netherlands. When I moved here, five and a half years ago, it was so difficult. I had to rent rooms from illegal sublets, I mean, without a contract, who were temporary. And eventually I falsified my contracts because it was a temporary contract but you need to have a fixed contract. Now I do have…like, everything is legal and I own a contract where I live. But it's for my boyfriend's salary. So that's how I came here and how my first time was in The Hague. When I found out that I was pregnant, my first thought was: Oh, I have to hide this from my work. Until I am, like, six months or something. Because if you don't have a fixed contract from the moment you are pregnant, then you will be out of a job. And you will also not get pregnancy leave. So you will not have an income from the moment that your belly shows, to when you're fit enough again to start working.
I don't think this is on the women. I mean, people get children. This is life. The government should anticipate this. I mean, it's bound to happen that people get children. This is what society runs on. It's so funny that you get punished for such a normal bodily function. No, I definitely don't think it's on me, as a woman.
Thirty percent of all the new built houses and buildings have to be social housing. You would say, “Oh, okay, thirty percent, that's good that they are always building more.” But there is sort of a termination policy. What it means is there are rules for building, but there are no rules for demolishing. What we see a lot is gentrification in cities, and actually first it was in the big cities in Holland, but now it's everywhere. So what happens is, the moment that somebody quits their contract for social housing, this will become a private market. The speed of demolishing, or the speed of extinguishing, is faster than building social housing. So what should be different, is there would also be laws that go against gentrification. Now, the government hides behind the thirty percent policy. If you build, like, nine houses per year, then what is this thirty percent going to do for the city? In The Hague, there is not a lot of new buildings or areas. We are stuck in the same situation. I definitely think we should look at: what do we need? And what is already available? Like, for example, in Holland we have a problem that there are a lot of empty office spaces. You could easily make apartments from it.
I think it's a man's world — it's a white man's world, especially in Holland. So if you look at real estate, that's definitely a man's world. And they are making the decisions for pregnant women. Of course, pregnant women, or women with babies or children, they will not be satisfied with the solutions because men think of them. What we need in politics now is to talk with people instead of about them. And with me, I've gone through so much. This is only the tip of the iceberg. I know firsthand what gentrification is, what homelessness means, what being pregnant means while you are living in student housing. So I think, in terms of this, I think I could not be in politics without these experiences. And I think that people who don't have these kind of experiences should step aside. They should give space to the people who have, and let them explain what the solutions are.