Belgian women who make us proud to be Belgian


Belgium would not be what it is today without strong, intelligent and ambitious women. We do not emphasize enough the important impact women have on every domain of our society. In occasion of International Women’s Day, Focus on Belgium puts 7 Belgian women who have left their mark on Belgium in the spotlight.

Adeline Dieudonné 

“My heroine does not wait for permission. She moves ahead”

La Vraie Vie of the Brussels author Adeline Dieudonné was one of the literary heights of 2018. Between tragedy and comedy, poetry and brutality, the novel describes the daily life of a family subjected to a tyrannous and violent father. The female protagonist realizes she has to free herself from the role of victim that society confines her to and battles social and sexual determinism. For this feminist novel, Adeline Dieudonné received the Prix Renaudot, the Prix du roman FNAC and the Prix Rossel.


“Women can also take the floor and say what they have to say.”

A colorful personality, light but telling lyrics, a soft voice, a sense of humor and self-mockery, those are the weapons of singer Angèle. With her Album Brol that came out last November, she won the golden disc in Belgium. Brol confronts topical issues, such as sexual intimidation, feminism, homosexuality and the dangers of social media. After her success at the D6bels Music Awards, the MIA’s and les Victoires de la Musique, Angèle was also proclaimed Brussels personality of 2018. With more than 1 million followers on Instagram, the young singer has become the idol of a generation.

Bo van Spilbeeck

“As the first famous transgender personality in Flanders I am hoping to play a role in social acceptance. I consider it my duty to get my story out there.”

Bo van Spilbeeck is an author and journalist for the VTM news service. After going through life as Boudewijn van Spilbeeck for years, in January 2018 Bo revealed she would rather be a woman. In the fall of 2018, she underwent a sex change operation. In March 2018, she published her autobiography Eindelijk vrouw in which she talks openly, without shame or taboos, about her many years as a woman in a man’s body. Thus she hopes to support and encourage other transgender who are struggling with the same problems.

Catherine De Bolle

“It remains important that I am a woman… It shows that there is still a glass ceiling, but that this ceiling can be broken.”

On the 8th of March 2018 Catherine De Bolle was elected director of Europol. This appointment is not only a big step forward for her personally, but also for gender equality in general. After all, Catherine is the first woman ever to become the head of Europol. She already broke barriers in 2012 by becoming the first female and also the youngest commissioner-general of the Federal Police ever. Now she holds the most prestigious police function in the EU.

Dalilla Hermans  

‘When something really gets to me, I cannot remain silent.’

Dalilla Hermans is a Belgian opinion maker, journalist and writer. She is not afraid to let her voice be heard and does this in her articles and columns for Charlie Magazine and De Standaard. Dalilla is also the author of two books. One of these, the children’s novel Black Girl Magic, was published in 2018 and received rave reviews. Born in Rwanda and adopted by a Belgian family, Dalilla has been confronted with racism most of her life. She raises this issue in an open minded and witty manner in her writing. Thus, she wants to enter into dialogue with  deep-rooted racism in our country.

Damya Laoui

‘‘I have always tried to keep this position of female role model at bay (…) Until I was invited to give a lecture for Mahara, an Islamic inspired student union in Antwerp. I got so many positive reactions from the women in the audience and thought: let’s do this. Ever since, I consider it my duty.”

The field of sciences is dominated by men? Bio-engineer Damya Laoui proves otherwise. The VUB-researcher was proclaimed New Scientist talent 2018. She received the prestigious prize for her cancer research. Damya developed a vaccine that would prevent the metastasis of tumors based on immune cells that are found in the tumor itself. She is hoping to start clinical trials within a year.

Nina Derwael

"I am confident now. First it was difficult to deal with the high expectations people had of me,  but I have embraced that. I won the European title so I have the right to be confident.”

Belgian, European and world champion, Nina Derwael has made history in the field of gymnastics. Her area of expertise? Uneven bars, a discipline in which she won a golden medial at the Belgian championship in May as well as at the European championship in August. Last November during the finale of the uneven bars in Doha, de 18-year-old claimed the first world title for our country. Her achievements have won her a lot of rewards, including the Belgian National Sports Merit Award.