Carnaval to Fight Sexual Harassment?


By the end of this week, the highly celebrated Carnaval week will begin and with that, we get some time off from attending classes! But that’s not what it’s all about. Carnaval is a longstanding tradition in southern regions of the Netherlands (as well as in other European countries such as Germany) and people here will celebrate like there is no tomorrow.

In an unfortunate manner, this light-hearted and exciting time becomes a threatening experience at the hands of unwelcome attention. With this wave of continuous beer drinking, wearing fun costumes, and party tents, it was brought to one woman’s attention that often some girls/women are subjected to forms of sexual harassment.

Ymke Kelders is an employee of the sexual health and rights organization ‘Rutgers’ and she decided to launch the song ‘Ben je oké?’ (‘Are you okay?’) in hopes of raising awareness about the subject matter all whilst enjoying the festivities. She explained that she hopes that as people sing along, it serves as a reminder to take care of each other better; to be reminded to check in with friends and family to make sure that they're having fun as well.

Kelders initiative has been well received by many young adults as it is accompanied by colorful posters that represent a diverse group of people asking the question ‘Are you okay?’. Following the steps of the #MeToo movement, Rutgers 'Ben je oké?’ campaign is set to be here for the long run in collaboration with the Association of Dutch Pop Theatres and Festivals (VNPF). With a powerful yet fun song that follows the traditional rhythms of Dutch Carnaval songs, her message is loud and clear.

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