An important position

The Netherlands is currently the only country which still has a women’s representative to the United Nations General Assembly. The Women’s Representative is granted 7 minutes speaking time to address the General Assembly at the 3rd Committee meeting (the UN Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Affairs Committee). This position is important because of:

  • the equal representation of both men and women
  • the position of women worldwide, especially those whose voices are not easily heard
  • lobbying and advocacy strength
  • network building and partnering amongst women’s organizations and governments in different countries
  • more attention within countries for the Beijing Platform for Action, UN Resolution 1325/1820, and for other women specific themes.


The most important reason that lead me to apply and accept this honourable and voluntary position for the year 2013, was to make a strong case for women entrepreneurs. The Netherlands is an important trading country, but there is still much untapped potential in terms of the contribution that women entrepreneurs could make to the world’s current economic and social challenges.

Entrepreneurship leads to empowerment.

Women who have their own income enjoy a stronger position. They gain respect by contributing to the family’s earnings, and have a means to escape from volatile conditions. Running a company is also a viable option for marginalized women, women from shelter homes, refugees, teen mums, and for example, prisoners. Entrepreneurship is not just about starting a new business, but also about starting a new life; it is empowerment in the form of greater self-confidence, self-esteem, and social inclusion.

An memorable experience

The most memorable experience in this position as UN Women’s Representative was the 7 minute statement at UN Headquarters in New York.

I could literally be the voice of so many women who were not able to speak out.

This platform makes it possible to make connections worldwide with people who share the same goals as me. The UN makes it possible to establish these networks. The other side of the coin is that the size of the organization makes it hard to understand what is being done by whom, which inevitably leads to inefficiency.

The future

The future looks very cloudy with extreme challenges. As such, the UN is needed more than ever before. My birthday wish for the UN organization is to be able to cope with the challenges it encounters. This will require not only more efficiency, but also creativity, innovativeness, collaboration, and brave people who have the guts to stand out. In fact, what they need is a more entrepreneurial mind-set…

Josette Dijkhuizen

Josette Dijkhuizen

Honorary Professor in Entrepreneurship Development, Maastricht School of Management
Program manager entrepreneurship
Women’s Representative to the United Nations 2013