Who is Andrea Schouw-Naphegyi?
I am a human rights expert. I take initiatives and steps towards an inclusive society. Thanks to my idealism and perseverance I am busy with this subject in my spare time as well. I am Hungarian. I grew up in the Hungarian part of Romania, where I started my professional live as a journalist at the Hungarian Department of the National Broadcast. Afterwards I worked for years as a political advisor.
In the meantime I earned my Master Degree in Human Rights at the Central-European University in Budapest, Hungary. I continued with my professional life at the National Council for Combating Discrimination in Romania. I was the manager of the EU Twinning Project that was implemented in collaboration with the Ministry of Justice in the Netherlands.
This is how I met my Dutch ‘blond prince’. On my way to the Netherlands in 2007 I made a stop at the European Parliament in Brussels as a MEP assistant. We got married with my blond partner in 2017. We celebrated our wedding in Utrecht as well as in Cluj-Napoca, my hometown. The first symptoms of a very rare, one in a million auto-immune disease appeared around my thirtieth. I gathered a whole convoy – rollator, trike, wheelchair, extra wheel – to enjoy my freedom of movement and participation in social life.
At which organisation(s) are you working?
As a human rights expert I set up Bureau Zonneberg in 2016. I am affiliated with various organisations, for example Inclusionlab and Solgu. I am involved in the development of local inclusion agendas at various municipalities in the Netherlands.
I am also running projects aiming at making leisure activities like playgrounds, museums, cultural activities, artwork places, and sports grounds, inclusive for each child. I use my knowledge and experience to enhance an inclusive society. This means the optimal participation of each person in the society regardless of cultural background, gender, age, sexual orientation, disability or other status.
Besides that, I am working on the topic ‘inclusion’ as a volunteer. I am the chairperson of the Dutch Inclusion Association. We meet every month for an online inclusion drink and talk. There are people with different types of disabilities involved. We feel safe and at ease when we are amongst us. We support each other and take joint initiatives to promote our participation in the society, hence the term ‘inclusion’.
With which initiative/project do you contribute to decrease discrimination?
I am action-oriented, so I also take initiatives as a citizen. I live in Utrecht Leidsche Rijn. I have a friend who is a wheelchair user like me, and in 2018 we organised a photo competition and exhibition called ‘Rolling free in Leidsche Rijn’. We showed the obstacles that we came across in our daily lives. By doing so we raised awareness and created connections in our neighbourhood. The local broadcast U in de Wijk Leidsche Rijn was at the opening of the photo exhibition where we also announced the winner of the photo-competition.
It was a success, so in 2019 we organised the next photo exhibition, ‘Rolling Free in Utrecht’. It was shown in our city hall for a whole month in October 2019. It is the department of Public Affairs where hundreds of inhabitants of the city walk around each day. We organised an action day for the staff members of the city hall. They could choose for a wheelchair or a blindfold. We went outside for a walk and their task was also to do some shopping. You should have seen their faces before and after this action: they were looking at the photos with different eyes.
I have written a column about this action and the Week of Accessibility (this is each year during the first week of October). By getting acquainted, talking to each other and organising joint activities, the prejudices that lead to discrimination will decrease. By learning how to get along with diversity, hopefully the connection amongst people will increase.
How do you reach the large public with your work?
During the development of a local inclusion agenda I am in contact with a large and diverse audience. The agenda is the result of co-creation: conversations with inhabitants, organising theme tables focusing on various areas of life, such as inclusive education, job market, leisure activities. There are several parties involved in this process: people’s advocates, public and private organisations, companies and inhabitants. With their participation we create the basis for the implementation of the inclusion agenda. According to the UN-Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities (ratified in the Netherlands in 2016) the municipalities are legally required to set up a local inclusion agenda. Through my activities I would like to strengthen the intrinsic motivation of a municipality to work on an inclusive society. Each inhabitant can feel it: does the municipality work on inclusion out of obligation or engagement? Does the municipality experience diversity as a burden or as enrichment?
I took my background as a journalist with me to the Netherlands. I had to learn a new language to be able to share my thoughts and experiences with a large audience. I succeeded! I reach the Dutch with my columns. Support is the largest event in the Netherlands that offers unlimited possibilities for people with limited mobility and their direct environment, from informal caregivers to (care) professionals.
Which AND/AND identity do you own?
Love immigrant, daughter, friend, human rights expert, diagnoses-collector
With which questions can people call you or which questions do you have for people or organisations?
Do you want to know how to overcome your prejudices on a subconscious level?
Do you want to learn how to conduct a conversation about topics that you consider difficult at this moment?
Do you want to talk about the acceptance of your health condition?
Do you want to get into contact with the Dutch Inclusion Association?
Then get in touch with me!
Nobody is just one person.
Nobody is just a mother, just a believer, or just an IT expert.
People are both parent and child, both idealist and activist.
One label never suffices.
People are full of differences.
And that’s why people share similarities with everybody.
Nieuw Wij* advocates a new form of We.
Not a ‘We’ which is exclusively based on faith, trade union or political affiliation.
But a ‘We’ based on similarities, big or small, we share with others.
Because we are similar more often than not.
I am And-And.
What about you?
*Nieuw Wij: A New We.