Susie Nicodemi

P’Anti-Discrimination Line, or hung out to dry

Susie Nicodemi

United Kingdom

Susie thought she had the right skillset to address an international audience in a neighbouring country

So you don’t just sit behind a desk and shuffle papers with an EU logo on it? Are you also a trainer? I don’t think I have ever seen a line of knickers hanging on a line in the middle of a European meeting.

The Dutch NA officer that spotted me hanging underwear on a washing line in our TCP meeting room seemed genuinely curious. I had recently got a job as SALTO Cultural Diversity Resource Centre Coordinator, and I decided to use the good old ‘laundry line’ method on a ‘P’Anti-Discrimination Line’ to present a list of SALTO CD projects for the year. It turned out that such extravagance attracted a lot of attention from colleagues from National Agencies from all over Europe. The Dutch colleague told me they were planning a ‘Diversity Day’ a few weeks later, and that they would welcome an input from someone familiar with non-formal methods and diversity issues in Europe. The idea behind the event was to present European youth work opportunities to a wide audience of youth organisations and young people on a national level, highlighting the cultural diversity element of it, but also to link it to the everyday reality of cultural diversity in the Netherlands. I was only too happy to agree.

The programme of the Dutch NA event was split in two halves – a morning of non-formal activities for youth and a more ‘serious’ discussion with academics and public institutions in the afternoon. I was asked to lead on the morning programme and told that I ‘could stay for the afternoon if I felt like it’. I prepared a good set of activities including one of my favourites – the ‘lemon activity’ using fruit to facilitate a reflection on cultural diversity in our midst. I felt it went really well and I remember standing on a chair and being in my element, having fun with the group.

Come lunch break, I was approached by my Dutch National Agency colleague and asked if I could take a more active role in the afternoon and contribute to a panel discussion on diversity in the Netherlands, as apparently someone had dropped out. I had no other plans and so agreed, but also added that I was no expert on Dutch issues and would try to bring in a European perspective. Little did I know that my perspective would indeed be very distinct….

We entered a packed room with an audience that seemed in the hundreds.

Once the panel started, on stage, with bright lights, I realised the entire thing was in Dutch and I was the only non-native, and no translation would be provided. I had to provide answers to questions not knowing what other panellists had said and often with only the briefest summary of the question itself.

I must have subconsciously repressed most of the event details from my memory with only the emotional memory left to remind me of it, but I must say that being interviewed in front of a few hundred people in a language one does not speak greatly expands your comfort zone. Working with and for SALTO always meant expecting the unexpected, and living diversity as often as talking about it.

Connection to SALTO:

Susie was SALTO Cultural Diversity coordinator between 2003 and 2009 (and is involved in SALTO work as a consultant)

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