Meet Dr. Kaouthar Darmoni, Atria’s new CEO.

Meet Dr. Kaouthar Darmoni, Atria’s new CEO.

1 October 2019

Kaouthar Darmoni is the new CEO of Atria, Institute on Gender Equality & Women’s History.

“Improving the situation for women is better for everyone: men, women, the whole world.”


Welcome, Kaouthar! Tell me, who are you?
“I was born and raised in Tunisia, North Africa. I come from an Arabic Islamic culture. I grew up among harem women who suffered from patriarchy. Ever since I was seven, I dreamed of improving the situation of women. That is better for everyone: men, women, for the whole world. From an early age I resisted the violence that I saw and that came from that patriarchy. That has touched me so deeply. “The personal is political”, that slogan from the feminist movement also applies to me! After my childhood in Tunisia, I studied gender studies at the Université Paris-Sorbonne and obtained my PhD at the Université Lumières Lyon on the thesis L’univers Féminin et la Drôle de Guerre des Sexes.

After my promotion I came to the Netherlands. I have twenty years of scientific knowledge and experience in gender and media studies, various (academic) publications to my name, and I am an experienced entrepreneur and speaker, amongst others in the media. I have also been active in various international women’s movements. In recent years, I have been mainly committed to strengthening women through the art of Raqsat Al Ilahat (the goddess dance). That is a more than 3.000-year-old matriarchal tradition that I take with me and that is anchored in me.”

Why are you passionate about women’s emancipation?
“In Tunisia, I was part of the solidarity of women, who met every Friday afternoon in my birthplace to discuss strategies of playful rebellion against the patriarchal system. I wanted to go to Europe to gain more knowledge and then back to Tunisia to have more “weapons” to fight the patriarchy. “

“As a young woman, I fantasized about studying at Sorbonne, the Parisian university. Taha Hussein, a famous blind writer from an illiterate family, has written beautiful books. He graduated from the Sorbonne. I thought: if he can do that, then I can go to the Sorbonne as a girl. That seemed really impossible in my situation. But after a lot of effort I went to Paris and this dream became reality.

“I thought for a long time that the West was very emancipated and that we were behind in Africa. But I soon realized that that was not the case at all. The more I traveled, talked to people, gained knowledge, did research, the more I discovered that the patriarchal system is not just about Africa or Tunisia. The patriarchal system is an epidemic. Everyone is trapped in the patriarchal system: it suppresses not only the women, but also the men. Wherever I am in the world, I want to ensure that the emancipation of people is high on the agenda. I am very passionate about that. “

Why are you enthusiastic about working at Atria?
“As a scientist I often saw that science is being practiced but is not socially relevant. What makes Atria special is that it uses science that is anchored in society. Research is being done into themes that are socially relevant. An institution like Atria can really make an impact and build a bridge between science and society. What else is the use of science? “

What management experience do you include in your new position as CEO?
“I don’t see myself as a CEO, but as a leader – that’s really my thing. I believe in collective leadership. A combination of horizontal and vertical leadership – the so-called matrix leadership – is the leadership of the 21st century, in combination with a balance between male and female qualities. I have a lot of experience in the field of strategic advice where my experiences from the academic and corporate world come together hand in hand. “

And what do you add to Atria on a personal level?
“A lot of knowledge is available at Atria, in the collection and library, but also among employees. This is an indispensable source in current discussions about women’s emancipation and women’s history. In addition to my own knowledge, experience and entrepreneurship, I also add charisma and passion. In recent years my mission has been to empower women through women empowerment and the goddess dance. The power of women is in the connection that women make between their brain, their heart and their belly.”

“I also think sisterhood is essential. For women seeking support from men it is important that women also support each other. Patriarchy has ensured divide and rule, competition with each other. Women can make it very unsafe for each other. We must investigate and discuss that taboo. So much social gain can be achieved there. In my role as CEO at Atria, I want to be actively committed to sisterhood. “


The IAV, the predecessor of Atria, was founded 85 years ago by three women who felt that the history of the women’s movement should not be lost in the light of the economic crisis and the emerging fascism in 1935. Do you have an affinity with women’s history?
“I see the power of female origin: we all bear the legacy of the women who fought for women’s rights before us. We stand on their shoulders. I come from a culture where oral tradition is very strong. The matriarchal history, the voices of all women for me, plays an important role in this. Atria has many sources that tell the stories of the women before us: beautiful, inspiring and motivating stories that we need to bring to the fore even more broadly and visibly, so that they become part of our shared history. We will work hard for that.”

Acquired women’s rights can easily be reversed, also in 2019. How do you view this?
“Women’s rights are currently the ‘canary in the coal mine’. We must remain very vigilant and alert to this. In addition, we must pay extra attention to vulnerable women in society, women of color or with a migration background, people who identify themselves as women and women outside the big cities. There is a young generation of feminists who are committed to women’s rights, rights of LGBTI people, to the climate change. Look at Lillith, De Bovengrondse, S.P.E.A.K. Atria must continue to support these groups with thorough research, facts, figures, advice and knowledge, so that they can continue to make a strong fist. “

What is your vision on intersectionality?
“As said,” the personal is political. ” I am African, Arabic, Muslim and feminist. As a Tunisian woman in Paris I was only allowed to do work that a “real French woman” could not or would not do. So I worked in cleaning, as a caretaker, to pay for my studies. I worked as a cleaner for four years, I am proud of that. At my cleaning addresses I was always seen as a submissive woman from the Arab world. I thought “never mind”, but judgments and stereotypes did hurt. That is why I find a great awareness of intersectionality, people with different stories, people with different backgrounds – people who come from a minority because of sexual orientation, poverty, disability – very important. It enriches feminism. “

“A good understanding of intersectionality is crucial at this time. Only with an intersectional view can an institution like Atria chart the role of women in social and political developments and contribute to the realization of equal treatment and opportunities for girls and women, and of course also for men. It is also about collecting the many diverse women’s histories and women’s movements. “

“What I think it is important that we are fighting the patriarchal system together with men. They are also victims of the patriarchal system. A man also has a lot to gain from feminism. That is why I like to speak of “femanism.”

“Feminism alone with your brain is poor,” you said in an interview in Het Parool. How does this statement relate to a scientific institute such as Atria?
“The goddess dance is a big part of my life. I have always taken that with me everywhere. That raised questions in science such as “can we take her seriously?” At the same time, the dance world saw me as “too academic,” and I was told that I was too much in my head. What are you, people wondered? I never wanted to make a choice. “
“We are so used to thinking in boxes. I am a Muslim, but I am also different things. I am an academic, I am a teacher, I am a mother, I am an entrepreneur, I am a girlfriend, I am a dancer, I am Tunisian, I am Dutch. You consist of several layers as a person. I think it is nice to give those layers the space, especially on the work floor. You will see that in the coming years we will increasingly work from the belly, heart and head. That is the new form of leadership, so that people feel seen and heard on different levels. “

Earlier you spoke in favor of a burqa ban. How does your personal feminism relate to your position as CEO of Atria?
“First of all I think it’s important to state that polyphony and multiformity provide oxygen. We continue to learn from each other. I made this statement when I was not yet a CEO of Atria and my personal opinion was asked. Now as CEO I naturally relate to the organization. Atria sees it as his role to facilitate dialogue and to evaluate the discussion. I will certainly discuss this with Atria’s employees. I already understood that there is a need to discuss this further in a safe setting with various women’s organizations involved. I think it is important to listen to the different perspectives in this discussion. I understand very well that there are people who have difficulty with the Law of prohibiting the ‘partially face-covering clothing’ and especially the impact that this has on the sense of security of Muslim women wearing only a headscarf.”

At Atria we are aware of the impact of role models. Who is your role model?
“My grandmother is my great source of inspiration. She was illiterate, grew up in a harem. She passed on the stories of her mother and the mothers of her mother. That is how she passed on the torch of feminism to me. But there are many other women who inspire me. For example Máxima, the Queen of the Netherlands. And Christine Lagarde, the formal CEO of the International Monetary Fund, and now CEO of the European Central Bank. I have been following her in the French media for years. She is a lawyer, not an economist, and though working in finances. She is a team player and especially knows how to surround herself with the right advisers. And more importantly: she listens well to these people. That appeals to me, that’s how I want to tackle it at Atria.”

How are you going to fill the first few weeks at Atria?
“I will of course dive into all the wonderful sources and books in Atria’s archive and library. In addition, I want to get to know the people who make Atria what it is today. Together with them I want to talk about the future: where do we want to go with Atria? The mission and vision are in the DNA of Atria’s employees, I’m not going to do that on my own. “
“Compare it with the Olympic Games: I am taking over the torch that has made a very good journey. The same flame that was worn by Aletta Jacobs. Feminists then, feminists now, we all carry on the flame. I see it as an honor that I can now continue that flame, together with the Atria employees. Fight with each other in interdependence and coherence, but also shine. Anchored in the heritage of Atria, in the spirit of Aletta. Together! With the LGBTI community. With people from different cultural backgrounds. With men. With everyone.’

Thank you, Kaouthar! Good luck at Atria.
“Thank you, I’m looking forward to it!”


Kaouthar Darmoni profile
Kaouthar Darmoni (1968) is originally Tunisian. She graduated in gender studies at the Université Paris-Sorbonne and obtained her PhD at the Université Lumières Lyon II. She has been living and working in the Netherlands for many years. She has several (academic) publications to her name, almost twenty years of experience with gender and media studies and is also an experienced entrepreneur, speaker on female leadership and media personality.

She is active in various international women’s movements. In recent years she has also been active as a goddess dance coach, to strengthen women. As of October 1, 2019, she is the new CEO of Atria, Institute on Gender Equality & Women’s History.
Photos: Jaap Beyleveld

By: Atria

ADD: original Interview in Dutch //

6 out of 10 women feel depressed about their body image

6 out of 10 women feel depressed about their body image

Shocking: only 3% of women are happy with their body!

In a recent survey in UK made on British women whose average age is 33 and who have normal weight limits for their height, we discover shocking and painful facts:

only 3% of women in the UK are totally happy with their body; 73% think about their size or shape every single day; 91% are unhappy with their hips and thighs; 77% are dissatisfied with their waist, 71% with their weight and 78% say they are unhappy with their cellulite. Six out of 10 say their body image made them feel depressed!


The modern day female obsession

These are worrying facts. Nowadays, a woman’s body shape dominates her whole life – it’s a modern day obsession. To improve our bodies, most of us are on diet, some frenetically exercise, some starve themselves by fasting or using laxatives, and others are regular consumers of plastic surgery… We increasingly want instant solutions to our weight and shape problems. This is a worrying trend in a society that seems to put the priority of being slim and attractive above being fit and healthy.

For me, the most painful information in this UK survey is that 91% of the women surveyed were happy with… their partner’s looks! So the majority of women are unhappy with their looks but happy with the looks of their men! Even though they often look better than their men! Why this double standard? Why are we so critical and destructive towards ourselves and other women while we are so tolerant and accepting towards men?

For women there is such an old pain associated with the indoctrination of the female body. Many of us are not free in our body. We are imprisoned in the dungeon of unrealistic beauty standards, mainly due to the sexualization and pornification of our bodies in the mainstream culture. That made us alienated from our female bodies: our body image is negative, full of shame, guilt and fear.

The Western Body Shame

I witness this often in my bootcamps and trainings: many women don’t love their bodies. They are at war with their bodies. They are full of complexes and judgments towards their bodies. And most of the time without a real reason.

I remember once in Switzerland where I took my goddesses to a Hammam (Turkish bath) as part of the goddesses healing experience. The Tunisian lady who is managing the Hammam told me: ‘I have been managing Hammams the last 30 years, in Tunisia, Italy, France and now in Switzerland. I don’t understand why Western women are so critical and hostile towards their bodies. Their bodies look much ‘nicer’ than ours (Arab bodies) but they are ashamed of their bodies. They don’t cherish their bodies like we do.’

That’s the painful point: self-love and self-respect; like the many Arab women I danced and went to the Hammam with as a child in Tunisia: they have a more compassionate body image, despite the overweight, big hips, thighs, waist and kilos of cellulite… There is less shame; they have a natural and unconditional acceptance and joy with their bodies. And I know their secret.

Would you like to know their ancient secret?

I have been sharing this secret with thousands of women around the world and it works. It’s simple and efficient. It cures quite fast your body shame, guilt and fear. It works so well that many keep on coming back to me because they want more, more and more (warning: it’s deliciously addictive!)

And I would love to share this ancient secret with you because it will make you happy as a human being and most of all: as a woman! It will increase your self-love and self-respect, no matter what are your weight, shape or age. After such an enlightening experience you will feel feminine, beautiful and sensual! You will feel: I loooove my body! Unconditionally! Proud to be a woman!

I will be launching a new program very soon, where I can help you with this!

This program is for everybody, no prior experience necessary.

With Love & Passion,
Boussa (kiss in Arabic),


Do you know what is the number one female shame in the world?

Do you know what is the number one female shame in the world?

Research on masculinity, femininity, and shame showed the following:
For men the number one shame: being weak (also being vulnerable).
For women the number one shame…I’ll let you guess what it is……Yes indeed, body shame!

And from research the body shame syndrome is also making victims amongst women who are young, between 20 and 30, normal body, and physically agreeable and even attractive.

Whether we are young or old, skinny or heavy, with or without wrinkles, it seems we all suffer from body shame.

All the great emancipation movements that we have been witnessing since the feminist revolution in the 60’s don’t seem to have solved the female body shame issue. Our modern mass media culture, and especially social media, make us drown even deeper into the body shame.

Empowering emancipation discourse or narratives to help women go beyond body shame have been efficient to only a certain degree.

I can tell you from experience, as expert in gender studies and women empowerment, that empowering women via the mind (with all the studies and self-development courses) to heal the collective female body shame is going very slow. To accelerate the healing process, it is much more efficient to go through the body.

Because the body shame is not only anchored in our beliefs system (“I am not good enough, my body is not good enough, I am too old/fat/skinny/etc…”), but also in every cell of our body. Because our body cells carry the memory of the shame as well. And this is why it is very important to release the shame from the memory of our body cells.

Like this client of mine, let’s call her Sonya to respect her privacy, in her mind she did a lot of work to love and accept her body as it is. But every time we practiced the Divine9 Dance and we did the Belly Snake (a beautiful, sensual undulation with the belly), she felt the emotion of shame rising from her belly and rolling into her system.

The shame of her belly was really big and old, going all the way back to her childhood. Because she heard from a young age her mother, grandmother, aunts, telling her that women of her family have a slight belly. From birth until they die. And for Sonya this had become such a big beliefs system, that it needed a radical approach.

So, for 30 days Sonya did every day for 20 minutes the Belly Fire Shimmy, a very staccato version of the Belly Snake to turn and erase from her belly body cells the memory of shame that she inherited from several generations in her family. To erase from her body what the psychiatrist Carl Jung called “the unconscious collective memory” of body shame, related to the belly.

The story of Sonya is unfortunately not unique! I have seen hundreds of Sonya’s during my 30 years of experience teaching women empowerment and Divine9 Dance. Fortunately, I could develop a method to help women, through the Divine9 Dance, to heal their body shame, in an efficient and fun way.

This method is now available to help even more women in my new Online Academy The Art of Being Feminine.
The women who have enrolled so far to follow this education, have been unanimously enthusiastic. They love the idea that they have a rich, fun, and efficient method available; that they can dance with me when and where they want; when they need it.. to heal and empower themselves, transform their body shame into body pleasure. And most of all: unleash their feminine power.

Read below what ladies say who enrolled one year ago:

I am a tomboy, have been playing handball most of my life and is working as an accountant, so I am very familiar with the masculine qualities. Through the Divine9 Dances I have rediscovered my primordial female force and what a force!
Vibeke Lundy, Denmark

I’m very glad that what you teach will not only teach me to how to dance, but also how to be more feminine, sensual and sexual as a woman and how to embody it and show in my everyday life. In the past, I was hiding my femininity, and my sensuality and sexuality was fast asleep for a long while.
Agnieszka Rybczynska, Ireland

I enrolled in this course in order to embody my confidence and now I am experiencing. I am amazed how fast this method works. I feel confident, stronger and happier than ever before.
Lori Thoenig

It helps me discover my femininity and all the qualities that put a woman in connection with her authentic soul, while accepting my shadows.
Anne-Laure, Switzerland

The whole Divine9 Dance is for me a real experiential female leadership program – with the deep self-recognition and self-awareness part and the learning / development / empowerment part coming from inside myself. It is not on a paper, in words, or in my head. It is exercised / danced through my entire body. From my body it goes back to my mind.
Lenka Mrázová, Czech Republic

The movements in her lessons are inspired on her years of long experience with Tunisian ancient dance rites, combined with knowledge on emotions and themes like self-confidence, boundaries, decisiveness, taking up space, and that shaped in a feminine way and especially through the body.
Barbara Benet, Netherlands

So, ladies, what are you waiting for? Take a deep breath and jump! And let me hold you by the hand and let’s jump and share and dance this feminine journey together, to heal our collective body shame and unleash our feminine power.
The world needs a more feminine women, free from body shame.

Join me now and let’s embark together on The Art of Being Feminine airplane.

Cannot wait to fly and dance with you in the air of The Art of Being Feminine!


PS: if you want to know more about The Art of Being Feminine have a look at the webpage here.
And remember, the enrollment is open once a year, do don’t miss this unique chance! You have only today 19 August 2019 to take the airplane of The Art if Being Feminine, and it’s my pleasure to be your pilot!
NB: if you join now, you save €334 over the normal price!

Yes I want to book my feminine flight now The-Art-of-Being-Feminine-airplane-100

You hardly see naked breasts on the beach. Why?

You hardly see naked breasts on the beach. Why?

In the past, topless sunbathing was normal. Nowadays, you hardly see naked breasts on the beach. Why?

One of the most recurring questions I get when people watch the documentary Coco Cabasa about my life and my work is about a scene when the police wanted to arrest me because of ‘immoral conduct’, simply because I was sunbathing topless on the beach. The repetitive question is: “how could a Muslim girl sunbathe topless? in a Muslim country?”

It was indeed forbidden, but I did it. I did it for different reasons; such as rebellion (against suffocating moral norms), emancipation (the right to self-determination), body freedom (I liberate our body), esthetics (I don’t like the white marks of bikini on my skin), solidarity (with the women who fiercely fought to uncover their body-breasts)…

Today, 30 years later, I would not do it as easily. I would not anymore dare to do now, in the emancipated free West, what I did in the past in a ‘conservative’ Muslim country (N.B. my home country, Tunisia-North Africa is the most emancipated and free Arab Muslim country in the world).

If someone would have told me 30 years ago that I would not dare go topless, as a free woman with a free body, on the Western-European beaches, I would have laughed. But to my big embarrassment, I do.

Despite all the feminism, women emancipation and female empowering body work I do thanks to the magic Divine9 Dance, I must admit that I suffer also from what the feminist Naomi Klein calls ‘The Beauty Myth’ Syndrome.

From the latest research, it seems that topless breasts on the beach have basically disappeared (also amongst girls of 20!!), not due to morality or puritanism as many have thought.

It has to do with our new, limited definition of female beauty, that make us too much aware of how ideal breasts should look like.

When I read this survey, I had to think about the millions of women around the world who fought during the last 40 years against the establishment to change the system and gain the right to be free to sunbathe topless on the beach.

And how sad it is that we give up today about this hard-gained right because we have developed body shame about our breasts. A body shame due to the internalization of an unrealistic and f**ked up Beauty Standards, made extreme by the mass-media culture of sexualization and pornification.

When I came to this realization, I stood up, put a nice drum music and started doing one of my favorite Divine9 Dance movements: the ‘Happy Boobs’ Shimmy Breasts. I was shaking and shaking, with passion and desperation… Shaking all the s**t and the limiting beliefs and judgments that we have been swallowing and internalizing about our female body and especially our breasts.

I added the ’Kalashnikov’ Shimmy Breasts and while shaking even more frenetically, I
started shouting ‘f**k the Beauty Myth, f**k the Beauty Standards, f**k the Beauty Myth, f**k the Beauty Standards, f**k the Beauty Myth, f**k the …”
I shaked, shaked and shaked my boobs until I fell exhausted on the couch, empty, grateful and happy.

Empty from all the Body Shame-Breasts Shame S**t we, women, have been swallowing and internalizing.
Grateful to all the brave women before us, who fought fiercely so that we can be free and enjoy today the freedom to be topless on the beach.
Happy to be a woman and to have breasts, no matter the shape, color, size.. of my breasts!
Happy & Proud to Say Yes I Am a Woman and My Breasts are OK! Tout simplement!

Boussa on your Glorious Breasts,


  • Want to see the documentary Coco Cabasa about my life/work? Look here.
  • Want to free that Wild & Sensual Woman in You? Join me at the Aphrodite in Paradise Retreat in Tunisia 17-22 September (only 2 places left!!)
  • Kaouthar recently on TV on the News program NOS (about Feminism, Emancipation, Islam, European law about Burqa interdiction)
Would you like to let go of all the negative emotions stuck in your body?

Would you like to let go of all the negative emotions stuck in your body?

Hadra, a spiritual trance dance, is an ancient tradition in North Africa, very popular in my home country Tunisia.

My father’s family was nomadic people who travelled through the African continent and settled down finally in Tunisia. They always lived in tents. They got their first ‘house’ in the late 50’s (it was more a clay hut than a house).


As a child, I went few times a year with my father’s family to nomadic camps in the desert. One of my vivid memories was the trance dance. That was WILD! There were live musicians who played certain classical trance pieces and the people, women and men, danced and danced and danced until they fell on the floor happy and exhausted!

The main function of these spiritual dances was emotional release. The idea was that to enter the realms of God and reach the Divine, one has to let go of the emotional burden that is keeping us stuck in drama and turmoil in the material world. With the Hadra, we cleanse our system from the emotional misery, low vibrations of shame, guilt, sorrow and fear. Then only, can we enter a space of happiness, joy and bliss!

People were free to do whatever they wanted when they entered the state of Trance. Even to tear their clothes off and dance naked! That was a surrealistic sight in a Muslim country where nudity in the public space is strictly forbidden!

When someone enters a state of trance, nobody should interfere, whatever they do, unless they hurt themselves. Only ‘interference’ you did if they would ‘get out of their mind and their clothes’ as we say in Tunisia was to take huge white sheets and make a circle around them to give them privacy and let them finish their trance. When they fell on the floor, in a state of exhaustion and bliss, we covered them with a sheet and put them on a matrass for a peaceful serene sleep. It was an amazing cleansing experience, for body and mind. One could thrive for months in that state of bliss… waiting for the next Hadra bliss…

Enjoy here below a Hadra ritual on stage in Tunisia, it’s a stage performance (when done in the privacy of a home it’s more intense, in all ways), but it gives you a little glimpse behind the veil…

And if you wish to taste more of it, I would love to initiate you to the Hadra ritual in my home country Tunisia, in the privacy and warmth of my Goddess retreats.

Boussac, with Trance Dance vibrations,


Ps. Next retreat Tunisia 17-21 September (2 places left).

My new TEDx Talk ‘Thank God for our Vagina’ is now available!

My new TEDx Talk ‘Thank God for our Vagina’ is now available!

It took a while before it was released (TEDx USA had to give their approval… I guess the V… word makes many people nervous!!)

My first TEDx Talk was in 2014 (Dare to Be Feminine), and this new one goes further. It’s a special one as I gave it right after my ski accident, with crutches and brace…

And it’s about breaking taboos… about femininity and masculinity…

Watch my TEDx Talk ‘Thank God for our Vagina’ below.

Enjoy and remember to leave me your comments below. I love reading you!


TEDx Linz 2019 – Thank God For Our Vagina!

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