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NWO celebrates... the International Transgender Rights Day, Pride Week, National Dutch East Indies Commemoration, Raksha Bandhan and the 2 October Monument Apeldoorn

In the section 'NWO celebrates...' we point out special (festive) days that we can celebrate together with all NWO colleagues. In the month August we highlighted several special days and a few colleagues tell their story with these days: Jacqueline Nigg (ENW) and Scott Kannekens (SGW) about the  National Dutch East Indies Commemoration on August 15, Manisha Ramesar (NRO) about Raksha Bandhan on 22 August, Léon Ouwerkerk (CWI) about the International Transgender Rights Day on 7 August and Nicole Verhoeven (P&O NWO-D) about the Pride week  from 31 July to 8 August.

Léon Ouwerkerk (CWI): International Transgender Rights Day on 7 August

‘The annual international Transgender Rights Day takes place every year on 7 August. I believe it’s a good time to reflect on the fact that many transgender people are still discriminated against and do not have an easy time in society. When Lisa van Ginneken – the first transgender person in the Dutch House of Representatives – took her seat this year, I saw that as a ray of hope. You can read more about her here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lisa_van_Ginneken’.

Nicole Verhoeven (P&O NWO-D): Pride week (31 July - 8 August)

‘It gives me great pleasure to contribute to the NWO celebrates … webpage. The editors’ meeting with Melissa Vianen (NWO-I), Marjolein Snellink and Seray Unsal (both NWO Communications) always fills me with so much energy.

‘It’s fantastic hearing colleagues’ great stories about festivals and commemorations and I’m impressed by the reactions of colleagues and their willingness to contribute ideas. It’s sometimes a bit scary asking people to contribute, and colleagues can be hesitant about doing so too… but this webpage has taught me that we at NWO can add significance and substance to Diversity and Inclusion and show each other another side of ourselves and what we celebrate.

‘While working from home during the coronavirus pandemic, I have made time to go for a walk every morning.  That was how, during the Pride Week at the beginning of August, I came across what was to me a new flag (the ‘Progress Pride Flag’), which represents even more LGBTQ+ groups. When I searched the Internet to find out what the colours represent, I also read about the debates about the flag and that not all groups feel represented by it at all (this article was one of the articles I read). If I’ve learnt one thing, it’s that every individual has a different story to tell and a different point of view and you can never lump everyone together. And that is what makes it so extremely valuable to engage in a discussion. We hope that NWO celebrates … will encourage these discussions among colleagues too!’

Jacqueline Nigg (ENW): National Dutch East Indies Commemoration on 15 August

Our colleague, Jacqueline Nigg wrote the following interesting blog on intranet Joost about her family and what the National Dutch East Indies Commemoration on 15 August means to them.

‘I’m Dutch-Indonesian. It’s true that I was born in The Hague, but I’m the daughter of a father (1912-2005) from Sumatra and a mother (1922-2015) from Java. They only got to know each other in the Netherlands after Indonesia declared independence and they had to flee. They had been Dutch nationals for generations but because they were of mixed race, Indonesia considered them and all the other Dutch-Indonesians to be “belandas” or “whites”, which was more or less a term of abuse in those days.

‘My parents experienced the Second World War first hand. My father worked on the Burmese railway as a prisoner-of-war, with all the horrors that entailed. Members of my parents’ families were taken prisoners-of-war during the Japanese invasion of Dutch East India and interned or put under house arrest as ‘buitenkampers’ (prisoners-of-war interned outside the camps). Both families lost many members during the war. Some were killed in action, others died in camps or as a result of the harsh house arrest regime.

‘Many commemoration programmes assert that the Dutch-Indonesian community rarely if ever spoke about the horrors of the Second World War. That is only partly true. They talked a lot about the war, but it would seem to be the Dutch-Indonesian way to remember things in as cheerful a manner as possible, where and whenever they can.

‘If my father’s brothers or friends came to visit, the topic of the war usually came up eventually. They always started jokingly, telling tall stories about the time they outsmarted ‘the Japs’, even in the camp. But after a while, they stopped talking about the ‘good’ memories and began recounting quite different stories. Then I got to hear things which my father told me a little bit more about much later, but only very occasionally. How they, if they were caught, had to stand bent over at a 90-degree angle, facing the Japanese flag in the burning sun for hours as a punishment. How they were finally given some water in which chopped ‘tjabe’ (little chili peppers) had been steeped so that their dry, thirsty throats burned, or their eyes stung painfully when they attempted to refresh their eyes with the water.  How, when working on the railway line, they had to work around fellow prisoners who lay where they had died of dysentery. And more of the same horrific stories.

‘But those who survived stayed strong, even when suffering yet more deprivation after the end of the war, during Indonesia’s war of independence and later, too, after their cold - in more senses than one - arrival in the Netherlands.

‘I can remember that when I was young, the commemoration lasted two days, just as the commemoration of the end of the war in Europe on 4 and 5 May. The flag hung at half-mast on 14 August to remember the fallen. And it was then hoisted on 15 August because that was the date Japan signed the capitulation. I can’t remember when it was reduced to one day, 15 August. And anyway, the Dutch-Indonesian community found it difficult to accept that the members of the Royal Household only attended this commemoration once every five years, even though the community used to be, and often still is, so royalist.

‘Most people of my mother’s generation have now died. When my father died in 2005, it was still forbidden to scatter a person’s ashes at the Indies Monument in The Hague: something that many older generations of Dutch-Indonesians would have dearly liked. By the time my mother died in 2015, the ban had been lifted and we were able to fulfil her wishes.

‘The National Dutch East Indies Commemoration on 15 August is and will remain important for most people who have (a part of their) roots in the former Dutch East Indies. Although we have Jewish members of our family tree, I feel more emotionally connected to the Second World War as it was fought in Asia and to the people there who fell victim to it, in whichever form. Perhaps it’s because so little attention and recognition was given to it for so long. It’s good to see that the younger generations of Dutch and Dutch-Indonesian have recently started showing more interest in and paying more attention to this side of the Second World War. This interest is a fine tribute to the older people who are no longer with us and means that their suffering and struggle is not forgotten.’

Scott Kannekens (SSH): National Dutch East Indies Commemoration on 15 August

‘I’m pleased to see that one of our colleagues had seen the request for stories and has written a personal blog about the National Dutch East Indies Commemoration on 15 August. I too have been focusing attention on the National Dutch East Indies Commemoration and, in conjunction with the Stichting Jonge Historici (Young Historians), we have made a short film in which I talk about my Dutch-Indonesian grandparents.  I’d like to share it with my colleagues: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nn78O1b6S00.’

Manisha Ramesar (NRO): Raksha Bandhan on 22 August

‘A festival in August every year that is very special for me is Raksha Bandhan, which is celebrated by all Hindus on 22 August. Raksha Bandhan is a festival for brothers and sisters. The word ‘Raksha’ means protection and ‘Bandhan’ means relationship. Loosely translated, it means: protective relationship. Sisters visit their brothers and tie a protective cord (‘rakhi’) around their wrists. The brothers are expected to give their sisters a gift and offer her every form of protection. The festival is intended to commemorate the relationship between brother and sister. The rakhi was originally made of red and gold-coloured thread, but nowadays they are in all colours of the rainbow and in all sorts of varieties.’

Geerte Schut (ICT): 2 October Monument in Apeldoorn

‘It’s not for a while, but every year I pause to reflect on the ‘2 October Monument’. It is a reminder to the residents of Apeldoorn that eight young men, including my great-uncle Jan Schut, were executed by a firing squad here on 2 October 1944 by order of the occupying forces, without any form of legal process. They were part of a resistance group and were betrayed. After the addition of the tablet to the monument, another name was added as a memorial to Mrs J.C. Bitter-van der Noordaa, who was murdered in the Ravensbrück concentration camp. She was part of the resistance group too. I believe it’s important to commemorate such events, because the story and our connection with the Military Cemetery where Jan is buried might potentially have been forgotten after my grandparents died. Many war stories aren’t generally known and by sharing these stories, we keep them alive. I thought this was a good opportunity to tell my colleagues about this day.’

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Diversity and inclusion at NWO and NWO-I

This new section will be published on both the NWO intranet Joost and the newsletter Inside NWO-I. This is an initiative from the NWO-D and NWO-I wide Diversity team. We aim to realise working in an inclusive organisation with inclusive procedures. We believe that we can achieve our strategic ambitions as NWO if we also seek to be a diverse organisation with an inclusive culture. Diversity brings us creativity, innovation, and renewal. In addition to this, we are convinced that we will have more societal impact as NWO if our organisation reflects the society we are part of. This means that as an employer, NWO needs to ensure that everybody is welcome, can be themselves and can perform at their best. This Diversity and Inclusion calendar contributes to that. You can read more about diversity and inclusion on the NWO website. And in the January edition of Inside NWO-I, we published the article “Striving for an organisation where everybody can be themselves” about diversity within NWO and NWO-I.

Section NWO celebrates … based on an annual calendar

We base the section “NWO celebrates…” on an annual calendar that we have produced ourselves. You can find our calendar here. An annual calendar does not necessarily have to start on 1 January. Various Roman emperors and several popes changed the dates making a year start on 1 March, or 25 March or perhaps 1 January? That set us thinking: which dates do we still take for granted, and how do others view that? Time for a calendar that includes all special days: days that we as NWO employees can celebrate together. We hope this calendar will help us to get to know each other better, increase our knowledge about other festive days, and give us opportunities to open up the conversation and discover which (festive) days are special for us and why.

Read the other articles from the section 'NWO celebrates...'

Would you like to participate in this section?

Is your (festive) day missing from the calendar (see annex at the end of this article)? Or would you like to say something in the section “NWO celebrates…” about one of the special days on this calendar? If that is the case, then please send an email to Nicole Verhoeven (n.verhoeven@nwo.nl). Then we will add your date to the calendar and contact you for a possible interview for this section.

Confidental Infomation