Report HIA Fellowship 2017

The 18th Annual Summer Fellowship Program, organised by Humanity in Action The Netherlands, took place in Amsterdam in June 2017. During this four week summer Fellowship, twentyfour selected students and recent graduates from the Netherlands, United States, Greece, and Bosnia-Herzegovina came together to discuss issues relating to human rights, diversity, democracy, power, populism, and minority rights. The participants of the program come from diverse cultural, professional and socio-economic backgrounds and the Fellowships provides them the opportunity to broaden their knowledge about human rights and prepares them for leadership roles. Not only in their specific local communities, but also globally. The aim of the program is to connect well informed critical young professionals across the world.

The Summer Fellowship is always concluded with the Annual Humanity in Action International Conference. This year the conference took place in Berlin and focused on the impact of the rise of far right populism. The International Conference serves as the meeting point for new fellows and senior fellows of the previous summer programs. Furthermore, the Conference sheds light on the tremendous diversity in professional background, nationality, religion, and ethnicity of the fellows of Humanity in Action. It also reaffirms the individual and collective commitment to human rights worldwide. Through discussions and workshops with leading German and international experts, site visits to local NGOs and tours focusing on exploration of various issues related to human rights, fellows and senior fellows are presented with invaluable opportunity to learn and to share their experience. 

One of the cornerstones of the program is to provide in-depth knowledge, tools and network opportunities to a group of diverse, talented, ambitious, and highly critical young professionals and students. Humanity in Action believes in the investment into a transnational network that will help us make sense of our rapidly developing and globalizing world. What connects the fellows and the staff of Humanity in Action is their true commitment to social justice, ideas of inclusivity and promotion of human rights. In order to kick start their careers, Humanity in Actions provides the fellows accept to a powerful network of senior fellows and international fellowship opportunities in the form of Lantos-Humanity in Action Congressional Fellowship, Pat Cox-Humanity in Action Fellowship and The Diplomacy and Diversity Fellowship; and international seminars, study trips, lectures and trainings. On the national context, the fellows stay in contact by organizing diverse informal activities.

I am surrounded by so many intelligent, beautiful people. I can’t wait to begin working on our own projects together, for I want to learn even more from the experiences and thoughts of my peers. But most of all, I am so curious to see where all of us are a year from now. Will we have achieved some of our goals? Will we have made the world a better place? And more importantly: will we still remember the wonderful, personal stories we shared with each other this month?

Sophia, fellow ’17

Fellowship in Amsterdam

During the Fellowship, the fellows were exposed to a wide range of activities that included lectures, workshops, documentaries, group discussions, fellow’s presentations, city tours, site visits and many others. Furthermore, a diverse pool of speakers with broad professional backgrounds, including human rights defenders, academics, diplomats, artists, journalists and grass-root activists, educated and inspired the participants of the program. On top of that, the fellows had the opportunity to create their own output project in the form of a documentary, a play, a social campaign, or a written journalistic article.

This year, the Amsterdam program started on May 26 with a weekend in Reeuwijk, an hour and half away from Amsterdam. The lovely weather and the presence of a swimming lake offered the right atmosphere to get to know each other. The weekend was dedicated to create a safe space. Trainers Lenka Hora Adema and Maja Nenadovic started off by introducing insights on group dynamics and debate tools.

To address a broad scope of issues related to human rights, minority rights, discrimination and racism, the summer program in Amsterdam was divided in two phases: input and output phase.

The input phase provided fellows with an opportunity to meet some of the leading experts and brightest commentators and researchers from the Netherlands. Through lectures, workshops, conferences and visits, Humanity in Action fellows could see a diverse yet thorough perspective on minority issues in the Netherlands. Providing a forum for discussion was very important as the transatlantic dialogue plays a key role in the program mission. Fellows shared their impressions in the blog and covered most of the topics discussed.

Featured keynotes
The learning process is something you can incite, literally incite, like a riot” – Audre Lorde

The core values and program mission are: education, connection and inspiration. Therefore, each year Humanity in Action aims to “incite” an ongoing learning process for a new pool of young students and professionals. By focusing on exploring national histories of discrimination and resistance and connecting that to the challenges that marginalized groups face today, the fellows are invited to dig and think deeper.

Input phase
This phase is the most intensive part of the program, because it is packed with speakers that will challenge the views and positions of the fellows. The focus on the Second World War and history of slavery in the Netherlands can be an emotional and exhausting process. By visiting the Anne Frank Museum and listening to the personal story of survivors together with lectures about the roles and responsibilities of victims, bystanders and perpetrators humanized and brought this history close to the realities of the fellows. Moreover, the current situation around the protection of human rights during the crisis of European refugee law, Anti Black Pete Activism, police discrimination and ethnic profiling in the Netherlands confronted the fellows and highlighted the need for civic engagement and commitment to social justice and change.

Seeing the connection between the historical facts and current developments, fellows had a ground for deep thoughts about the very essence of humanity.

The Dutch program always starts with the study of the Holocaust. This starting point serves a great example that visualizes the catastrophic impact of racism. Everyone had a role to play. During the program, the fellows look at the different roles: victims, perpetrators, resistance fighters and bystanders. The ways in which this period of history shaped the way the Dutch deal with racism and view the national identity is studied. Abram de Swaan, professor emeritus of Social Science at the University of Amsterdam spoke on genocidal regimes and perpetrators. The group met with Fanny Heymann, who is a child survivor of the Holocaust and Carolien Zimmerman, a theatre maker, during their visit to the Anne Frank House.

Moving on, the program aims to connect this specific history to contemporary human rights issues. Questions such as “How does an inclusive society look like?” “What is integration?” “What is the impact of privilege? and “how do we deal with questions of power?” are discussed, analyzed and examined. Adeola Enigbokan held a lecture on intersectionality a.o. and Koen Vossen on populism. Both focused on the context of the Netherlands.

The history of slavery in the Netherlands was explored with a visit to the Tropenmuseum where the group met with Wayne Modest. Sunny Bergman and Elvin Rigters spoke about their work and Anousha Nzume shared her latest book ‘Hello White People’.

We cannot choose bits and pieces of our histories and current realities. There is no justice if racism and oppression remain unseen. I carried this lens with me outside of the museum’s doors. The way we remember impacts our empathy; how do we get people with privilege to see? If understood the full story of colonization and slave trade, would this time period still be called, “The Golden Age” by so many citizens of Netherland?

Jalyn, fellow ’17

The topic of micro revolutions was discussed by HIA board member and anthropologist Sinan Çankaya. Maartje Eigeman showed the impact of the  Democracy and Media Foundation in their support of projects against islamofobia. Senior Fellow Mitchell Esajas took the group to the Black Archives where they watched the documentary ‘I am not your negro’ that was introduced by Antoin Deul and Lucas Johnson and Adwoa Aidoo.

Jelle Klaas informed the group on strategic litigation and Sanne Mylonas about entrepreneurship in Greece. Moreover the group visited the Wereldhuis, where undocumented people find a place to come together. Lidya Zelovic introduced the topic of the war in former Yugoslavia.

The fellows took part in interactive workshops about identity by Mounir Samuel, Tugba Oztemir and Cihan Tekeli. During a site visit to Rotterdam the group met with the ngo’s Better Future Factory, Voice of Afghan Women and Heilige Boontjes.

Niels Schuddeboom shared his combat for accessibility. Mr. Schuddeboom was an indepent agent and healthcare consultant and took many examples from his own life.

There are moments when I feel so inspired by the speakers; like today when Niels Schuddeboom gave us a glimpse into his live. It makes me want to do good things and change the world.

Sophia, Fellow ’17

Halleh Ghorashi lectured on the changed conditions of critical thinking and the power of interpersonal relations. Rabbi Awraham Soetendorp shared his personal life story and his efforts in rebuilding Jewish congregations, fostering respect education and pioneering interfaith cooperation and building up the institute for human values.

A small group had the opportunity to meet with Frieda Menco, who was involved since the very start of Humanity in Action in the Netherlands. Mrs. Menco shared her personal story about surviving Auschwitz.

Narku Lorenz Laing who is both Senior Fellow (Berlin, 2014) and member of the Board of Directors of Humanity in Action Germany provided a workshop on ‘strategies to counter everyday racism’.

Boris Dittrich, former board member of HIA Inc and advocacy Director of the LGBTQ rights program at Human Rights Watch spoke about his work around the world.

During a public event on women’s rights, Suzanne Bouma (Atria), Amin Ghazaei (journalist) spoke, moderated by Nawal Mustafa. (Berna Toprak was unfortunately not able to be present)

Fellow Talks

Due to succes during the program last year, there was space dedicated to  Fellow Talks: each of the participants had time allocated in the program to raise an important issue or share a personal story. This part of the program enables to discuss national issues that the American, Bosnian-Herzegovian and Greek fellows deal with. During this part of the program we learned about how small cities in Greece deal with the refugee crisis, how we can use the game ‘the legend of Zelda’ as a tool for social change, how to find biases and stereotypes in literature by focus on few relevant concepts such as the “white gaze” “animalistic descriptions” and many, many other interesting topics.

Output phase
After completing an input phase with its highly interdisciplinary approach, which was an outstanding learning experience, participants of the summer program were divided into groups to work on their own project.In the second phase of the program, fellows were working their own project in the form a documentary, a play, a social campaign, or written journalistic paper. Each one of the output products was focused on a topic that was discussed during the input phase or on an initiative that was presented. Working on these creative projects, the fellows learned new creative skills that will help them to combine art and civic engagement. On the very last day of the program all groups made half an hour presentations about their projects.

Anouk Eigenraam,  freelance journalist and Senior Fellow presented her book ‘Welcome to the world of adoption’ and guided a group of fellows in writing an article on integration in the Netherlands. 

David Limaverde, art-educator, performer and art activist shared how theatre can be used as a tool for social transformation. A group of fellows worked on a play with David using the method of ‘Theatre of the oppressed’.

Kim van Haaster, filmmaker and anthropologist presented her film ‘Play no matter what’ and introduced the world of documentary film making. A group of fellows engaged in film making and created a short film on cooking, starring a chef who is living undocumented in the Netherlands.

Ilana Cukier, Senior Fellow and campaign strategist took the fellows along in creating an effective campaign.

The fellowship concluded in a 3-day conference in Berlin, where the fellows met all their peers with whom they are united in the international senior fellow network.

HIA The Netherlands looks back on a successful summer program 2017. Almost all innovations to the program turned out to be a success, especially the start of the program outdoors and the introduction of the Fellow Talks and the creative projects. We found some important tools to create a safe space, a concept that has grown to be very necessary in creating an environment where ideas can be exchanged and challenged. We were able to create a space where emotions are acknowledged as we tried to reflect on historical and contemporary human rights issues from our own positions and nationalities. We tried to transcend (national) boundaries by redefining that which connects us.