Voices of Change
On September 11 2021, ICDO hosted the “Voices of Change” event as part of the Long Nights of Interculturality 2021. Voices of Change event gathered ICDO Fellows from around the world, who will use their platforms and activism to actively contribute to the ICDO’s Fellowship program and make a positive change with joint efforts. This year moderator Sarita Yasmin Castello and ICDO’s President Josipa Palac hosted eight ICDO Fellows who are advocating for change in different spheres and debated solutions for various challenges nowadays. Topics such as indigenous rights, women empowerment, self development, LGBTQ rights and cultural diversity were openly discussed and the participants agreed that providing education and raising awareness are of utmost relevance in order to make the world more inclusive and encourage sustainable development.
The Otoe-Missouria and Choctaw journalist and community builder Johnnie Jae fights for a future in which “[the youth of indigenous communities in the United States of America] can imagine themselves as change makers and scientists and that they know that nothing is impossible”. She advocates for their rights, because she is deeply concerned about the current representation of indigenous people in the United states as being inferior to non-indigenous inhabitants.
LGBTQ activist Bandy Kiki, who grew up in a conservative village in Cameroon, a country where it is against the law to be lesbian or gay, is a great example of someone who has shown that you can become a change maker even if you face many challenges.
While growing up Kiki noticed that she had a different approach to sexuality and realized she could not express herself in her hometown. She managed to create an opportunity for herself to accept herself and become vocal about the struggle she has gone through. Currently, she is a great inspiration and support for people worldwide who struggle with their sexual identity.
“Sexuality is still considered a taboo subject [in Peru] … when you tell people ‘sexuality’ they only think about ‘sex’ and when you tell them ‘sex’ they only think about intercourse”, said the Peruvian activist Alesia Lund Paz. She underlines that proper sexual education is highly needed and will allow people to make conscious and informed decisions about their sexuality, as well as safe decisions about sexual intercourse, which is liberating and empowering.
According to Deni Todorović, fashion could be a powerful tool to break this taboo, too. They explained that by dressing in a way in which you are true to yourself, you familiarize people with different expressions of sexuality, open conversations about this topic and becomes inspiration to others. For Deni, fashion is such a powerful tool in activism, because “the way you dress is the quickest way to communicate how you feel and what you believe”.
Parisa Taheri added that the use of fashion has helped her greatly to self develop and express herself truthfully. Her posts on social media serve as a great inspiration to others and it is her aim to “empower women to leave their comfort zones and to become what they want to be [and wear what they want to wear] without [feeling] any force from society or their family”. While growing up in refuge – after her family, who lived in Iran – lost everything during the Iran-Iraq war – Parisa faced many difficulties because she felt different from the people she was surrounded with. Nevertheless, by staying true to herself, her passion and her intuition, she became an inspiration for others and shared her love for fashion by putting the legendary fashion icon Iris Apfel on the social media map.
The two activists Alessandra Ottazzi from Peru and Sunita Sahu from India fight in their own ways for the empowerment of women and the protection of their rights. Alessandra said that her blog “Mujer al Borde” is a great tool in raising awareness about self-love, women empowerment and gender-based violence. Sunita stated that “being born as a woman [in India] is a big challenge”, because you are being targeted based on your gender. On top of that, she highlighted that in order to empower women the idea that women always have to do the housework tasks should be denormalized, since it limits them in their self development.
Lastly, Sebastian Becker Castellaro highlighted that in order for human rights defenders to make a change, it is highly important that they are safe and protected while doing their work. As a human rights lawyer he has experienced that human rights defenders are often criminalized by surveillance systems of governments and he underscored that this seriously threatens the world’s human rights systems. According to him, not only states should be held responsible, “[but also] companies who create technologies to monitor human rights defenders [and those] who are selling these technologies to the government.”
ICDO President emphasized the importance of a joint work in advocating for change and highlighted that through the Fellowship program ICDO provides change makers with a platform to network, exchange ideas and take action together. Some of the panelists highlighted the importance of raising awareness through different entertaining mediums such as social media campaigns, while others emphasized the importance of education in activist work.
Working with youth is one of the Pillars of ICDO’s mission and project and we are looking forward to the exchange of creative ideas and the next steps of ICDO Fellowship Program.