Anita Ramsaran is a woman on a mission. She wants to break the taboo of asking for help in the Hindustani-Surinamese community. With her foundation ‘Ken je kracht’ (Know your strength), she offers a
safety net and a sympathetic ear to women in need of help.
Anita Ramsaran lives in a colourful home in the centre of The Hague. Entering the house feels like stepping into Suriname. Lights and statues of gods fill the space, and a nosy turtle keeps a beady eye on the conversation. Anita is 63, but looks years younger. Nothing is too much for her. She prepares coffee, makes sure you are sitting comfortably and is genuinely interested. But behind her soft and easy-going charisma hides a woman with a mission. Anita: ‘I have cared for people at different times in my life. I don’t want to say for whom because it is a taboo in the Hindustani-Surinamese community to tell people that you need help. You run the risk of being laughed at. People will gossip about you if you admit you are not doing well. And I want to protect the people I cared for. But I also want to break the taboo of asking for help. That’s why I decided to take part in this interview.’
A smile on your face
Anita: ‘I was brought up with the idea that taking care of people is normal. As a woman in our community, you just get on with it. You have to do everything in the household, without complaint. There came a time, however, when I had to combine informal care with work, raising a family and studying. That was an awful lot. It made me strong, but I also lost sight of myself at a certain point. Look, you can’t do everything on your own. If you do, you end up breaking something inside yourself. You can become depressed or stressed and lonely. I have seen this happen to other women around me. Taking care of someone else is hard enough already. And it is even worse when you can’t talk about it with your family or friends for fear of gossip. And so you have to put a smile on your face. Because airing your dirty laundry in public is a big taboo.’
‘Within our community, it is still a taboo to ask for help’
Setting a good example
‘My dream is for those within the Hindustani-Surinamese community to be there for each other in times of need. Instead of someone’s problems being the talk of the town, you could ask yourself: How can we help that person and reach out to them? Someone has to start by setting a good example. That is why in 2019, I started a foundation for vulnerable women. I called it ‘Ken je kracht’ (Know your strength). In my own neighbourhood, I know there are plenty of women in need of a safety net and a sympathetic ear. Together with a few other women, we set up a telephone ring where we make calls every other day for a few hours to women who need help. We come up with solutions together, we teach them to become more assertive and to trust in their own strength. And from June onwards, we will start organising Haags Ontmoeten (The Hague Meets) in De Kronkel community centre on Westeinde. Here, vulnerable women and carers can get together and support each other. We have already managed to help many women in difficult situations. An initiative like this could have helped me in the past too.’
Know your Strength Foundation
Curious to know more about the Ken je Kracht Foundation? You can contact the foundation by email: email@example.com or by telephone: 06-43 08 40 18.