“Who run the world?” It is impossible to visit Suriname without hearing the epical song of Beyoncé in your head. “Who run the world? Girls!” Not sure about the whole world, but in Suriname it’s a fact. I’ve never been to a place where women had such a profound place in all levels of society. 

For example: on the first day we visited the Arthur A Hoogendoorn School for the semi final of the VIRUSKENNER project. The auditorium, packed with nervous, but excited students – awaiting their turn to present their VIRUSKENNER presentation. Due to a technical issue, it took some time to start the presentations, hence the tension was rising…. But Ans and her female teachers team kept the students in place and at ease – all students demonstrated an enormous respect towards their teachers (and role models). When the VIRUSKENNER semi-final finally took off, we experienced high quality presentations; in quality of content as in originality and social impact. 

After the VIRUSKENNER presentations, we were ‘summoned’ to the principal office: what a warm welcome we got from mw. Simons! She is not only a big fan of ‘knowledge as antivirus’ concept (all the previous VIRUSKENNER winner cups showed off in her office), but she embedded the strong natural leader role (so easy) with a clear vision of a better future for all students in Paramaribo. She made an enormous impression, and I would be honored to meet her again someday.

During the second day, we’d visited the Nassy Brouwer School, led by school manager mw. Astra. The same semi-final concept as we had at the Hoogendoorn school but with a totally different experience: their approach was more video oriented which resulted in 15+ minutes movies of inside jokes and (sometimes) slap stick situations. Nevertheless: they had obviously a lot of fun. What stroke me most was the boy-girl role in almost all the VIRUSKENNER presented projects: the boys played the ‘we neglect the virus/ bacteria’ roles where the girls played the ‘we warn & inform about the viruses & bacteria’ roles. In Suriname, girls show a self-conscious and are self-confident which is not questioned at all by boys. Girls run the world, quite natural, in Suriname. 

Even on the streets of Paramaribo, accompanied by a (Surinam) woman (Georgina for example) results in much more friendly and respectful encounters with local passers-by than walking as men alone. If she could be your (or theirs) mother, you receive a safe pass. Check: Suriname is a maternal country.

During our last day in Paramaribo, we visited the Academic Hospital to (re)connect with dr. Vreden and his team; infectiologists and microbiologists. Although dr. Vreden is retired, his name and knowledge are still of enormous value for preventive strategies as well as for patients with infectious diseases.  Unfortunately, his successor aspires a role somewhere else, leaving the infectious diseases department of AHP rudderless. Luckily, dr. Woittiez (a woman) stood up and now leads the team and with a minimum of tools and tests but with passion, resilience and a vision and she will succeed in managing a strong and future proof infectious diseases department for all living in Suriname. Beautiful country, Suriname. With even more beautiful people. 

March 29th , 2022.: principal R. Simons and VIRUSKENNER cups – Hoogendoorn School Paramaribo, Suriname.