I am Jacqueline van Dooren (Leiden, 1988). I am a Sales Support employee at A Beautiful Story, a fairtrade jewelry brand, and a councilor for D66 in Lisse. A Beautiful Story offers people in Nepal and India a living wage plus. In addition, I am a councilor, energy coach, volunteer at the local scouts and gardener in my hometown of Lisse. I stand for an efficient way of working and living in which we pay attention to our impact on each other and on the environment. Now and in the future.
I have great ideals. I graduated in 2012 in the Master ‘Conflicts, Territories & Identities’ (Radboud University Nijmegen). During my studies I volunteered for six months with the Tibetan community in India and did a six month internship at the embassy in Kuwait. I also experienced the consequences of war through an exchange program with the Balkans. I did an internship at UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and I reported on the UN Climate Summit in Qatar for the youth department of my political party. I’ve seen terrible circumstances, and how people are paid unequally despite their hard work. Now I use that knowledge and motivation to prevent people from ending up in war and poverty through fair trade. After all, prevention is better than any cure.
I also think that things can be improved in my direct environment. Lisse, the flower bulb capital, is a wonderful place to live, but runs the risk of ageing or becoming a poorly accessible suburb with little employment opportunities. Where there is only living space for the lucky few and houses are literally and figuratively flooded due to climate change. The municipality has only recently started a policy aimed at sustainability. This can be done better, faster and more ambitiously. The effects of climate change are already almost irreversible. That is why the coming years are crucial. In my position as councilor (for political party D66) I contribute to managing this.
Through the various encounters I’ve had – from the Dalai Lama to right-wing farmers – I have come to understand the world better. I have learned that seeing and talking to those directly involved on the spot is tremendously important. Not only for facts, but also for weighing and feeling. This allows me to put myself in the shoes of others. I have come to understand many clichés better; they are no longer hollow concepts. The key is indeed working together, mutual respect and diminishing prejudice. Every person has prejudices, every person suffers in his or her way and wants understanding for this. From Northern Ireland to India we think the same about this, but through circumstances, it still goes wrong.
I see three clear solutions.
The first is something we all do: the choices we make as consumers. In India you live closer to the basics. You see how your food grows in the fields, if you have meat that day you see the dead goat still hanging, clothes are made or adapted in front of you and you do not always have access to (clean) water. A huge difference with the Netherlands. It is understandable that the world has developed in this way, but as a consumer you have a choice: for products that are too cheap, without any labour rights, with or without the help of toxic substances. Or for products where you pay a fair price for labor. Products that are made with care. This in addition to buying less, repairing, and buying second hand. I think a lot can be achieved here to reduce inequality in the world.
The second point is the importance of young people. I have seen many large organizations and small initiatives that want to change something. I see an important role for young people, both in developing countries and here. People know their own country and the ways in which decisions are made best. Young people are the future and they should be able to shape it themselves.
The third and final point is a more efficient system of ‘aid’. The Dutch are largely rightly critical of development aid. Private initiatives tend towards unprofessionalism and short term projects; large organizations are cumbersome and hierarchical, which means that a lot of donor money is lost. While there are certainly exceptions to these rules and an incredible amount of good is happening thanks to these organizations, I think we can improve our system. It can and must be more efficient not to betray the trust of donors, and to actually give help and not disappointment. Well-thought-out policy is crucial for this. In my opinion, this can be achieved by focusing more on the causes of inequality rather than the symptoms. For example through the above-mentioned consumption pattern, through connection with the business community, since it is certainly in their interest that countries develop and are stable; by allowing governments to support long-term projects focused on topics that are not “sexy” for Western donors; and by having NGOs meet strict standards.
I think it’s all about wanting to work together. To really solve problems and really help, you have to look for cooperation and keep both feet on the ground. So we Dutchies should be very good at that.