Join IMPACT in Commemorating Aid Workers on World Humanitarian Day!


By Chiun Min Seah

On World Humanitarian Day, we honor aid workers who risk their lives and welfare to carry out humanitarian services, and to mobilize assistance for individuals affected by disasters and conflicts worldwide. As IMPACT aims to be a catalyst for discussing perceptions about human trafficking and conflict-related sexual violence and improving the protection of victims, the violence that these humanitarians face in the field must be confronted. It must be noted from the outset that aid workers can be both the victims and perpetrators of horrendous atrocities and abuses.

A humanitarian worker manages and develops emergency response programs within designated geographical areas that have been subjected to war, natural disasters or other environmental or developmental problems. Their responsibilities mostly involve front-line operations, planning, monitoring, administrating, and implementing projects which are dependent on the nature of the situation and emergency, sometimes even geopolitical and economic circumstances. Working as a humanitarian is “extremely challenging” and many “live under harsh conditions”. However, thereality of their obstacles in the field is regrettably not limited to the above conditions.

There have been allegations and reports about horrendous violence against aid workers who were killed, wounded, kidnapped, tortured, sexually harassedand abused (including rape and gang rape). The perpetrators of violence against aid workers seem to be predominantly from national level non-state armed groups (57%), followed by 24% for state actors, and 7% of global non-state armed groups. One female aid worker recounted that a soldier threatened to kill her if she did not “open her legs”. This occurred only one kilometer away from a United Nations base in Juba, South Sudan, yet UN peacekeepers paid no attention to calls for help. In 2016, Humanitarian Women’s Networkconducted a self-report survey and more than 1,000 female aid workers who respondedwere subjected to discrimination, harassment, and abuse. Almost half of these workers experienced unwanted and persistent sexual advances by their colleagues,40% were sexually violated by their colleagues, and more than 20% of that were committed by a superior. These crimes go unreported due to “fear of professional consequences, lack of trust in the system, or an absence of mechanism to report”, and even complete non-intervention by their employers. The majority of cases recorded against male humanitarians were committed by male aid workers against gay men or men who were seen by perpetrators as effeminate. The accurate numbers of male victims are still unknown.

There is also another side of the humanitarian and peacekeeping world that we have to delve into; sexual exploitation and abuse by the very people who are meant to do the protecting, aid workers and peacekeepers themselves. The forms of sexual exploitation include systematic human trafficking into prostitution where aid personnel commit these crimes rather than combat them. Megan Nobert, a respectable humanitarian and founder of Report the Abuse, depicted her sexual assault experiencewhere the perpetrator was a fellow aid worker working for a UN supplier. Her story is sadly not an exception amongst aid workers. In recent years, many reports of girls and women who endured sexual violence by peacekeepers in war-torn countries have also surfaced. For instance, an 11-year old Congolese girl was raped by two peacekeepers and became a mother of two children by the age of 14. Another example included a teenage boy who was gang-raped by Uruguayan peacekeepers who filmed the assault. These experiences are grimly emblematic of the underbelly of U.N. peacekeeping and the organization as a whole. Some of these supposed protectors have been revealed to also be involved in human trafficking, especially child sexual abuse and prostitutions.

Various journalism organizations like VICE Media and Associated Press have conducted in-depth investigations and Al Jazeera published a report on this issue. The world is starting to openly acknowledge the existence of sexual violence amongaid workers (both as victims and perpetrators). It is high time to turn the attention towards addressing this issue for prevention and reparations for victims. Prestigious humanitarian organizations such as the UN, OXFAM, and Save the Children are among those who were listed for historical sexual harassment and misconduct allegations. These organizations have taken formal actions against these sexual assault allegations but there is still a lot left to do.

In a globalized world where at least 40 wars are active, we must at least be able to confidently believe that the aid workers who are supposed to do the protecting are people we can wholly trust with our safety. They must not be wolves in sheep’s clothing who oppress the weak. It is just as important to address sexual violence against humanitarian workers. Aid workers are amongst those who can truly make a positive difference as they are the ones who are pragmatically providing help and support towards victims in disasters and wars. These rationales underpin the need for zero tolerance on sexual exploitation by and against humanitarians with utmost transparency in how allegations are effectivelydealt with. IMPACT will not condone any acts which directly and indirectly cause sexual violence and human trafficking in both conflict and post-conflict settings. Let us join hands in achieving IMPACT’s vision for a world that is free of violence and a world where human trafficking and sexual violence during conflict are a thing of the past!

CALL FOR PAPERS


Special Issue Journal of Trafficking and Human Exploitation

The nexus between conflict-related sexual violence and trafficking for sexual exploitation in times of conflict

Guest editors: Dr. Anne-Marie de Brouwer & Dr. Eefje de Volder – Impact: Center Against Trafficking and Sexual Violence in Conflict (www.impact-now.org)

In its 2018 report on conflict-related sexual violence (S/2018/250, 23 March 2018), the UN Secretary-General stressed once more the urgency of addressing the nexus between trafficking in persons and conflict-related sexual violence, further to UN Security Council Resolutions 2331 (2016) and 2388 (2017). In this special issue of the Journal of Trafficking and Human Exploitation, the nexus between these two crimes in times of conflict will be further explored from both the academic and practical perspective in support of the Secretary-General’s call.

The following themes will be discussed:

• Definitional and factual issues concerning conflict-related sexual violence and trafficking in situations of conflict for the purpose of sexual violence or exploitation, such as the definition of the crimes, the perpetrators and victims, and the consequences of the crimes.
• Prevention of both crimes, from different perspectives, such as the role of faith-based and traditional leaders, intergovernmental organisations, NGOs, awareness raising campaigns, and peacekeeping initiatives.
• Addressing both crimes: legal and non-legal mechanisms, such as transitional justice mechanisms and mock tribunals, and reparation efforts, including socio-psychological and medical care and tackling stigma.
• Case studies (contemporary countries or regions of concern), including a discussion from a particular point of view, such as the situation in refugee camps.
• Any other area of interest not mentioned above.

Deadlines:

Abstract submission (max. 400 words): 1 June 2018 (Email: info@impact-now.org)
Announcement of selected abstracts: 8 June 2018
Article submission (3,000-8,000 words): 1 September 2018
Publication of the Journal: December 2018

See also the website of the Journal of Trafficking and Human Exploitation: https://www.uitgeverijparis.nl/tijdschriften/tijdschrift/15/Journal-of-Trafficking-and-Human-Exploitation#extra

Supporting Genocide Survivors of Sexual Violence in Remembrance of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda


Today, 7 April 2018, it’s the International Day of Reflection on the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda. On this day we commemorate this genocide where in a period of 100 days only, about 1 million lives were lost and 250,000-500,000 people were raped or experienced other forms of sexual violence. According to the UN “rape was the rule and its absence the exception”. Almost every Tutsi woman or girl became a victim of sexual violence at the hands of Hutu extremists, both men and women. In addition, some Tutsi men and boys as well as (moderate) Hutu women or girls became victims of these crimes.

The sexual violence against the Tutsi was used as a tool to commit the genocide; the rapes had resulted in the physical and psychological destruction of the Tutsi women, their families and their communities. Some 70 percent of the survivors were Hiv-positive, many bore children from the rapists, developed secondary diseases and enormous trauma, and faced stigma and isolation, in addition to having their family members killed and their property destroyed and looted. As the Judges in the Akayesu case before the ICTR concluded in 1998: “sexual violence was a step in the process of destruction of the tutsi group – destruction of the spirit, of the will to live, and of live itself.” With this case it was for the first time recognised that rape and other forms of sexual violence can constitute genocide as long as the specific intent to destroy the particular group is present. The case was a breakthrough in international criminal law, as we also discussed two days ago (5 April 2018) after the showing of the documentary ‘The Uncondemned’ at the Humanity House in the Hague. This documentary tells the gripping story of a group of young international lawyers, activists and Rwandan women who played a major role in the recognition and prosecution of sexual violence as an international crime.

On today’s 24th Commemoration of the Genocide against the Tutsi we recall our common humanity and recommit to protect the vulnerable and to uphold our human dignity. As IMPACT we also wish to do so and to continue to make strides for the survivors of the genocidal sexual violence in Rwanda and elsewhere. We have several projects that empower Rwandan survivors of genocidal sexual violence and that make people all over the world aware of the importance of understanding conflict-related sexual violence and of really making a change so that these crimes will be prevented and addressed in the long run wherever committed.

Of the projects that we wish to do, and that concern Rwandan genocide survivors of sexual violence, our aim is to provide justice to these survivors, either directly or indirectly. For example, we anticipate – in cooperation with others – a research into the conflict-related sexual violence cases brought before the national courts and traditional gacaca courts in order to better understand the impact of these cases. This, we believe, will contribute to combatting impunity of conflict-related sexual violence in a more comprehensive way in the future. Another non-legal yet socially innovative project that we aim to set up is our theatre project in the country side of Rwanda where ways of exchanging information are limited and sexual violence (both during the genocide as well as in modern days) is highly prevalent. To reach these remote communities we worked on a plan to set up a mobile Rwandan theatre play (in cooperation with Rwandans: survivors of sexual violence, a director, script writer, actors as well as counsellors) that has the potential to reach thousands of people and to take away shame and stigma often found with victims. Rather, the topic becomes one that can be discussed and understood, and counselling can be provided. Awareness raising and education is key in preventing crimes from happening again and the form in which it is presented need to be adapted to the local situation.

Another example is our recently launched crowdfunding campaign which goal is to educate on and create awareness of conflict-related sexual violence and to empower the survivors of these crimes. How? (1) By sharing the stories and portraits of Rwandan survivors of sexual violence in an updated book named ‘The Men Who Killed Me’; (2) by creating an interactive platform that provides information on all the user wishes to know on the topic of conflict-related sexual violence and forms of justice available that can be used in schools and universities; and (3) by providing concrete possibilities for Rwandan survivors of genocidal sexual violence to start their own businesses or to educate their children. The sixteen women and one man in the book ‘The Men Who Killed Me (2009)’ are all strong and resilient people. They are our friends and teachers in life. Through their stories in the book they have inspired and changed not only us, but people all over the world. Some changed their career path to study gender or conflict studies, others stood up in class and bravely discussed their own sexual victimization. It’s time to update their stories to understand how their lives have unfolded in the past ten years since the book was published, which will show even more the strength of these people.

We invite you to stand in solidarity with the survivors of the genocide in Rwanda today and, if you can, make a contribution to our crowdfunding campaign in support of the courageous and awe-inspiring genocide survivors of sexual violence.


IMPACT: Center against Human Trafficking and Sexual Violence in Conflict

For more information or to contact us: www.impact-now.org or info@impact-now.org

Wish to make a contribution to our crowdfunding campaign? Go to: www.impact-now.org/product/crowdfunding

Why colonial slavery should not be equated with human trafficking (‘modern slavery’)


Two wrongdoings that need recognition in their own right

Dr. Eefje de Volder

Today on the International day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade we look back at a dark period in our history, where between the 15th and the 19th century more than 18 million people were forcefully removed from Africa to the Americans (including the Caribbean and Europe). it was legally permitted to treat them as commodities, as less than human, as exploitable items at a large scale, that resulted in flourishing economies in the countries involved in the slave trade.[i]

Back then, the idea of slavery was not new. In fact, slavery has been practiced all over the world for thousands of years long before the colonial slave trade. Slavery was even a common part of life in Africa, where slaves were treated relatively well. They could marry, gain an education, and interact in everyday society. Colonial slavery, on the other hand, stripped people from their rights. In general, the distinguishing feature of slavery is widely held to be that it treats human beings as property.[ii]

It is common nowadays in the anti-trafficking field (either in campaigns or in policy) to link colonial slavery with human trafficking by reference to modern slavery. For example, in 2008, the head of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime opened the United Nations Conference on Trafficking in Vienna, by stating: ‘Two hundred years after the end of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, we have the obligation to fight a crime that has no place in the twenty-first century. Let’s call it what it is: modern slavery’ (BBC News 2008a).[iii] Also the UK has coined its anti-trafficking law as the Modern Slavery Act. Strikingly, colonial powers who have been painstakingly slow in fully recognizing colonial slavery, refusing to officially apologize out of fear of compensation claims, are now at the forefront of fighting ‘modern slavery’.

Yet, without sufficient recognition and awareness of what colonial slavery was about and how it has been different from modern forms of enslavement, these correlations can do more damage than good. It takes away recognition of the particular damage and trauma inflicted on the victims of colonial slavery, damage that has transcended in future generations (intergenerational trauma).

There are several reasons why human trafficking and colonial slavery should not be equated or considered in the same vain:

Legality issue: Colonial slavery was legal during the period of the transatlantic slave trade and until its gradual abolishment, while human trafficking is illegal.

Definition issue: in definition, equating human trafficking with modern slavery (in the extension of colonial slavery/slave trade) is false, as it does not cover all the situations that can be considered as human trafficking. Slavery is only one of the possible outcomes of ‘trafficking’ listed in the UN Trafficking Protocol (‘Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs’). Further, a person does not have to be held in ‘slavery’ (whatever that may be) to qualify as a victim of trafficking, but they do have to have been taken ‘for purposes of exploitation’. The exploitation does not have to be taken place, the simple intent to exploitation is sufficient for a situation to be qualified as human trafficking (although in court this turns out to be difficult to substantiate with adequate proof).

Ownership issue: Colonial slavery in most cases entailed legal ownership of people, which is not the case with human trafficking. Because of the illegality of human trafficking, legal ownership is not possible (although some situations may result in factual ownership)

Visibility and prejudices issue: Because of its legality, colonial slavery was out in the open and accepted by society, resulting in all sorts of prejudices about people of colour that became normalized and as a result continue to persist in the minds of some today. Human trafficking on the other hand is illegal and therefore less visible. For example, many people do not even know that trafficking in the Netherlands exists.

Racial ideas issue: Colonial slavery was justified based on racial ideas about Africans and the supremacy of the white race/subordination of Africans. In modern slavery colour and ethnicity play less a role, it rather focuses on weakness, multiple dependency and deprivation.

– Compensation issue: The (il)legality issue has vast consequences for victims and their rights to compensation. While human trafficking victims by law have a right to compensation, victims of colonial slavery never had such a right. In fact, at the time of the abolition of the slave trade, it has been slave owners who have been compensated for their loss, not the enslaved people.[iv]

Recognition and awareness about colonial slavery and modern forms of enslavement (human trafficking) can go hand in hand. We can raise awareness and educate about past colonial slavery while at the same time showing that still people are kept in slavery like circumstances. But we should also merit the categories in their own right, in full recognition of the damage and wrongdoings inflicted on those who have fallen victim of it and their relatives.

[i] https://www.un.org/en/events/slaveryremembranceday/memorial.shtml

[ii] (‘the status or conditions of a person over whom any or all of the powers attaching to the right of ownership are exercised’ League of Nations).

[iii] https://glc.yale.edu/sites/default/files/pdf/new_slavery_old_binaries.pdf

[iv] https://www.theguardian.comcommentisfree/2015/jul/15/britain-slavery-owners-british-colonies-abolition

Being a Social Entrepreneur: unreasonable, unrealistic and insanely ambitious


dr. Eefje de Volder & dr. Anne-Marie de Brouwer

(IMPACT: Center against Human Trafficking and Sexual Violence in Conflict)

(info@impact-now.org)

(given on 9 March 2018 at Tilburg University during the symposium
‘Entrepreneurship in the 21st Century’ on the occasion of the inaugural address of Tilburg University’s first Distinguished Professor of Practice Ronald de Jong)

Introduction: creating a better world

We consider social entrepreneurs as the entrepreneurs of the 21st century, trying to address the big social (wicked) problems the world is faced with today, from climate change to poverty and from conflict and migration to human exploitation. A social entrepreneur is not necessarily something you become out of deliberate choice: you do not wake up in the morning one day and think: this is the day that I am going to change the world. It is rather an intrinsic feeling of injustice that you carry along with you as long as you can remember, a feeling that you want to contribute to a better world. In the 90s, it was our own government here in the Netherlands that tried to make us more conscious about the environment with the slogan; ‘een beter milieu begint bij jezelf’ or ‘a better environment starts with you’. And we think that most social entrepreneurs will agree that this slogan in the broadest sense ‘a better world starts with you’ reflects their core values very well.

The traditional academic world

Both of us have worked for years at the university and continue to do so on an ad hoc basis. While working at the university, doing research and teaching, it soon became clear that the incentives in the university system do not really motivate or stimulate academics to invest in impact projects. The foundations of the university system make it, overall, difficult to contribute to social innovation while having to meet the formal requirements set for academics at the same time. While social innovation is stimulated in policy, it is something you have to do on top of research, top A journal publications and education and it is not likewise being accredited. While the university potentially offers an environment of exchange of knowledge, of renewed insights, of social innovation, the university result in research that is published in academic journals for peers but not often accessible for the greater public or translated to useful tools to make the changes needed for the society at large. The market forces that have entered the university realm require measurable output that do not necessarily involve practical solutions for societal problems, resulting all too often in the academic Ivory Tower effect.

But it is precisely contributing to solving problems in the broader society that should be the rationale for the university’s existence.

As social impact was our main driver in dealing with our topics of concern – human trafficking and sexual violence in conflict – we found a place outside the university structures to pursue our dream.

So what is it that we do exactly?

We: IMPACT: Center against Human Trafficking and Sexual Violence in Conflict

We are IMPACT. We ACT and make a PACT for IMPACT; impact by preventing and addressing human trafficking and conflict-related sexual violence (www.impact-now.org). Two crimes which share many similarities. Two crimes that involve millions and millions of victims worldwide. Our vision is to have a world in which there is no longer a place for these crimes. A world free of human trafficking and sexual violence in conflict.

How do we aim to end human trafficking and conflict-related sexual violence? We aim to end this violence through systemic change. Not only supporting survivors of these crimes in a practical manner, but by trying to change the system on multiple interrelated levels. To a large extent we could say that ‘our product’ is our knowledge. And to prevent and address human trafficking and conflict-related sexual violence we must influence policy makers, professionals, youth and others. From the international level all the way to the local level and the other way around.

We do this in the following four ways; via (1) research & advice, (2) education & awareness, (3) training & capacity building, and (4) empowerment projects & advocacy. Each level targets another audience through which systemic change can come about. An example is our 2-weeks Summer School on conflict-related sexual violence and human trafficking which we are going to teach for the second year here at Tilburg University. These students are the new generation who can make actual change in preventing and addressing the two crimes. Another example includes training of professional judges, prosecutors, defence and victims’ counsel on ways to deal with conflict-related sexual violence in the court room. We recently gave such a training in Uganda to court officials of the High Court (International Crimes Division), as they were confronted with the first high profile case that included conflict-related sexual violence charges against the accused, an alleged war criminal. And above all, to have systemic change, we always include the voices of those who suffered the crimes in the first place; only through consulting and working with them, these complex problems can be tackled. A research on how human trafficking in the Netherlands can be prevented and victims can be earlier identified by interviewing victims about their own views and experiences is an example thereof.

First came the work and then the theory

For us the idea of setting up IMPACT came first. Only after our work became operational it was labelled by others as socially innovative. An example of such a socially innovative project is our theatre project in the country side of Rwanda where ways of exchanging information are limited and sexual violence (both during the genocide as well as in modern days) is highly prevalent. To reach these remote communities we worked on a plan to set up a mobile Rwandan theatre play (in cooperation with survivors of sexual violence, a Rwandan director, script writer, actors as well as counsellors) that has the potential to reach thousands of people and to take away shame and stigma often found with victims. Rather, the topic becomes one that can be discussed and understood, and counselling can be provided. Awareness raising and education is key in preventing crimes from happening again and the form in which it is presented need to be adapted to the local situation. This project and many others made us social entrepreneurs, without us consciously deciding on it. Only when labelled by others as such, we started – yes, we remain academics at heart – to look into the theory of what being a social entrepreneur is about and discovered that we indeed quite look alike!

John Elkington, a world authority on corporate responsibility and sustainable development, defines the core characteristics of highly effective social entrepreneurs in his book ‘the power of unreasonable people’.

Social entrepreneurs: unreasonable people, insanely ambitious, systemic change

Hmmm, unreasonable people? Elkington indeed states that among the main characteristics of social entrepreneurs you can find unreasonable or even crazy people that are insanely ambitious and who seek systemic change. That doesn’t sound very appealing… However, there is a truth in this. Social entrepreneurs are unreasonable people. Unreasonable in the sense that these people try to transform the world they live in as they believe the system is not working as it should be. Whereas reasonable people adapt themselves to the world they live in, unreasonable people try to change it. They do not accept the world as it is currently functioning. In effect, by trying to change the system social entrepreneurs are game changers.

And to be able to do so, social entrepreneurs are – admittedly – a bit stubborn. They swim against the stream by doing things that others may think is just impossible. Indeed, most of the time social entrepreneurs have been called crazy by different people on one or multiple times in their career. Social entrepreneurs do not take no for an answer. They continue to find ways to realise their goals. For them the glass is always half full. Social entrepreneurs are driven by change, not only out of their self-defined ambition but also because they sincerely seek to make an impact for others. It’s their passion for change that drives them. And since this passion will always be present, the drive to make an impact will too. Admittedly, dealing with stories of human trafficking and conflict-related sexual violence are not always ‘easy going’; yet these crimes are very real and only by understanding them one can also address them. We have seen the pain with survivors, but also their strength and resilience. Because of this, we have a passion for systemic change, a drive to make an impact for these people.

For example, yesterday (8 March 2018) it was International Women’s Day. On this day we launched our first crowdfunding campaign (www.impact-now.org/product/crowdfunding). The goal of the crowdfunding is to educate on and create awareness of conflict-related sexual violence and to empower the survivors of these crimes. How? By sharing the stories and portraits of Rwandan survivors of sexual violence in an updated book [‘The Men Who Killed Me’ (2009)], via an interactive platform to be used in schools and universities, and by providing concrete possibilities for survivors to start their own businesses or to educate their children. On the picture you see the survivors of sexual violence we are talking about. Strong and resilient people. Our friends and teachers in life! Through their stories in the book they have inspired and changed not only us, but people all over the world. Some changed their career path to study gender or conflict studies, others stood up in class and bravely discussed their own sexual victimization. It’s time to update their stories to understand how their lives have unfolded in the past ten years, which will show even more the strength of these people.

And as social entrepreneurs – who only set up IMPACT less than a year ago – we have a dream… to become within 4-5 years an expert center in the field of human trafficking and sexual violence in conflict worldwide, ultimately with regional offices in several continents! Overly ambitious? We do not think so!

Through co-operation unrealistic visions become reality

That brings us to one of the following characteristics of social entrepreneurs as identified by Elkington…. It is only by co-operating with others that unrealistic visions become a reality.

Like Elkington, we believe in the power of working together! Only by co-operating with others real change is possible. Wicked complex problems – such as tackling human trafficking and conflict-related sexual violence – cannot be solved by us alone. Again, it is only by co-operating with others that unrealistic visions become a reality. People like you and me, people with different backgrounds and skills, and frustrated about their environment and seeking for ways to change it. It’s always a team effort. And the good news is; everybody can be a social entrepreneur or … a social consumer.

Although IMPACT’s vision – a world free of human trafficking and sexual violence in conflict – may sound overly ambitious, this is no longer the case when you work together with others. You then realise that the work is not only doable, but once you have started it and done it, you can continue to build on it. In our case, we start to bring organisations in the Netherlands working in the field of conflict-related sexual violence, together. By doing this our aim is to address gaps in knowledge, skills, co-operation and impact in these fields. This has never been done before – which is somehow surprising you would think – but we believe that through our joint co-operation ‘the whole is greater than the sum of its parts’ (Aristotle).

Impact beyond profit

Another distinctive characteristic of social entrepreneurs according to Elkington is that in contrast to traditional entrepreneurs the business is about more than financial gain alone. The profit of social entrepreneurs is not solely based on money, but also on social and environmental impact, a so called blended value.

The social environmental impact (how the work has made a difference, impacted the lives of others, contributed to a better world) is an important driver and therefore should be valued similarly as financial gain. The problem is that the current market is still not equipped to measure the value of impact profit the way we are able to measure financial profit.

For example, in our work we set 10% of our income apart for empowerment projects. This means that we allocate money to support or empower victims of trafficking and sexual violence in conflict. During yesterday’s International Women’s Day we were able to offer a day out for female survivors of human trafficking in the Netherlands. This is also impact. But it is simply measured in a different way.

Another way in which we contribute to empowerment is through a coffee project (in cooperation with the Mukomeze Foundation, but also students of the Outreaching Honors Program at this university) that empowers women through microfinancing and offers a market for the coffee in which they can sell for more competitive prices than locally which results in more revenue (www.rwandesekoffie.com). This project empowers these female entrepreneurs because they can make their own living, but it also contributes to their self-confidence and well-being as well as the well-being of their family at large. At the same time this project impacts companies and social consumers here in the Netherlands, who can buy coffee with a positive story. The financial profit in this project is a side effect, it is the impact that matters most in the end.

Concluding remarks: ‘Be the change you wish to see in the world’

This university is determinant to take the necessary steps to allow social innovation and social entrepreneurs to flourish. Tilburg University has indeed already taken several concrete steps to make sure that social entrepreneurship is fully embraced on all levels. With today’s appointment of Ronald de Jong as Tilburg University’s first Distinguished Professor of Practice, the university shows its further commitment to make the university environment susceptible for social innovation. We encourage Tilburg University to continue to take the lead in this.

The educational system, from primary school to university, plays an important role in creating an environment for social innovation. When looking back, both of us had this allergy for injustice since we can remember and would go against it when confronted with it. As early as then we would also be confronted with people who got uncomfortable when adolescents would question the very system they saw as a fixed reality. When not knowing any better, the demotivation by those who are in fact scared of change can discourage you in thinking big and striving for change. The educational system, and the university in particular, is the right place for unthinkable solutions to be developed and discussed, after all only then transformation will come about.

As we mentioned the good news is that everyone can create social impact, not only as a social entrepreneur but also as a social consumer. Because, at the end of the day, when you look back at your life’s footprint, what will you value most: the money that you have earned or the products that you have bought or the difference that you have made in other people’s lives? Then wat better to do than to earn your living by impacting the lives of others? so go on and ‘be the change that you wish to see in the world’ as Gandhi once told us (and of which we are reminded every day as the quote is on the wall in our office). That is surely what we are going to continue to do.