Make room for the perspective of refugees in policymaking: that is the common thread in the work and research of 27-year-old Mohammed Badran. In 2016, Mohammed started his bachelor's degree in Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology at VU and this year he completed his master's in Social and Cultural Anthropology. Mohammed has a Palestinian background and was born in the Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus, Syria. He came to the Netherlands in 2013.
Because of his experience as a Syrian newcomer in the Netherlands, Mohammed decided to establish a foundation together with other Syrian newcomers, Syrian Volunteers Netherlands. With this foundation, he helps refugees to build a life in the Netherlands. Among other things by helping them to find volunteer work, thereby also expanding their professional network.
Dutch refugee policy
Mohammed quickly saw that the Dutch refugee policy should be shaped differently. "Policies are made for refugees, without including the perspective of refugees."
Listen to refugees, is Mohammed's advice. "It is important that refugees have a voice in policymaking themselves, that their experiences are learned from and that existing policies do not hinder them in building a future," Mohammed explains. He gives the example of highly educated refugees whose degrees are not recognized. "Policymakers are in different circles than the refugees themselves. The reality is often different from the image that policymakers have of refugees."
Mohammed deals with these issues in various ways. As a consultant, he advises organisations and ministries. In addition, he works as a social designer at OpenEmbassy, an organisation that is involved in policy-making for newcomers at the national level. He has also collaborated on research and publications on these subjects at VU.
His vision also applies to educational and academic institutions, Mohammed explains. "Universities, too, should actively look for other perspectives and make room for them in their policy and curriculum. Each institution must critically examine whether they are creating enough room for different people and perspectives." This approach is not only valuable when it comes to refugees, Mohammed believes, but for every issue surrounding inclusiveness and diversity.
ECHO Ambassadors community
Now that Mohammed has been nominated for the ECHO Award, he automatically joins the ECHO Ambassadors community, a network of socially involved students and (young) professionals who have been nominated over the years. "This nomination and becoming an ECHO Ambassador is an honour that provides me with space to further develop my skills to strengthen diversity and inclusion," said Mohammed in response to the nomination. "I want to continue pushing for positive and systemic change for refugees locally and at the international level. I look forward to building connections with other ECHO ambassadors, establishing new collaborations and developing new solutions together to achieve true diversity and inclusion."
ECHO is a non-profit organisation dedicated to diversity and inclusion in education and the labour market. The ceremony of the ECHO Award will take place on Thursday, February 3, 2022. See the list of finalists here.