Reflecting on the NOW-Us! week

agenda October 17, 2019

This year The Spindle and Voice teamed up again for the second edition of the NOW-Us! Award. This Award was created last year in order to celebrate inclusion by showcasing rightsholders groups initiatives during the annual Partos Innovation Festival. We searched for initiatives from Africa and Asia that are target-led and work towards the inclusion and empowerment of marginalised and excluded groups. 162 teams responded to the call and applied for the Award. After a very careful examination of the applications by the jury, consisting of HandSpeak Vietnam (winners of last year’s edition of the NOW-Us! Award) and representatives of The Spindle and Voice, ten teams were selected that spoke most to Nothing About Us Without Us. These ten teams were invited to the Netherlands to experience a week full of workshops, learning activities and network opportunities. They also had the opportunity to win one of the valuable prizes, granted during the finals at the Partos Innovation Festival on October 11th.

After the arrival of the teams on Monday the 7th the NOW-Us! week, facilitated by Butterfly Works, kicked-off on Tuesday with a day full of workshops. During various exercises the NOW-Us! teams worked together and individually on their projects. They elaborated on elements in empowerment processes, such as self-esteem and confidence, and reflected on their mission and future aspirations through creative exercises. Habiba Mohamed, founder of Women and Development Against Distress in Africa, reflected on this first day of workshops:

“Today has been an important day for me. Especially the exercises that gave us the opportunity to reflect on were we coming from and where we are going were very useful. It gives you the opportunity to note your success and actually acknowledge them and to see that things are not as bad as they look. This gives you hope to look ahead of it and to think through what you need to get where you want to be.”

Wednesday turned out to be an exciting day; the semi-finals! At a 10-minute Q&A session, the teams presented their initiatives to the jury and answered all the jury’s questions. During these conversations, the teams could explain their innovations and inclusive initiatives more in-depth. This Q&A was followed by a pitch-event hosted by Bart Romijn, director of Partos, and multi-talent Nidhi Goyal, both members of the Voice advisory board. All teams got two minutes to pitch their initiative in front of a big audience including the jury. Afterwards, the juries withdrew to discuss and decide which teams made it to the next round. The following teams made it to the final:


  • Ca nous Concerne Tous – An Bè Koungo (Coalition Anti SIDA) from Mali
  • Empowering the blinds in all spheres of life through inclusion (Jyothirgamaya Foundation) from India
  • Voices of Hope and Action: A fistula survivor’s movement (Women and Development Against Distress in Africa) from Kenia

Last Friday’s at Partos Innovation Festival we celebrated inclusion together with the teams. Princess Laurentien of the Netherlands had a special conversation on stage with three of the NOW-Us! teams about their dreams for an inclusive society. They talked about how they work on being included in society and how important it is to take part in the planning and implementation of policy involving their communities. The first step to achieve this, they concluded, is to create awareness of- and understanding for their vulnerable positions. In the afternoon the NOW-Us! teams took the lead in a workshop on different aspects of inclusion. Through their stories, they shared their knowledge, experiences and ideas, and gave insights on how to encourage inclusion within organisations and projects.

All teams did great during the NOW-Us! week and impressed the jury and audience with an inspiring passion for their projects. At the end of the day, all eyes were on the finalist of the Award. After a hard deliberation time, the jury announced which team impressed them most with their working methods: WADADIA with their initiative Voices of Hope and Action. The 2nd and 3rd price went to Jyothirgamaya Foundation and Coalition Anti Sida. Congratulations to all winners!


“Winning the Award was a great validation that WADADIA’s Voices of Hope and Action is changing lives and shaping the future by including the fistula survivors in advocating for their sexual reproductive health rights and socio-economic well- being. It’s heart-breaking that about 2 million women in Africa and Asia are living with this condition. We plan to use the cash prize establishing a safe place where women in our program can be able to stay as they access the range of services in our centre.”   – Habiba Mohamed | Winner


“It is a difficult job for the jury to choose the winners from the 10 inspiring stories. We had to consider different factors and took our time deciding. We focused on the spirit of NOW-Us! Award which is Nothing about us without us. Important was that the initiatives are led by target groups to promote inclusiveness in their community. At the end, even though we only had 3 prizes, everyone is a winner to us. We are proud of all the 10 teams.” – Nguyen Tran Thuy Tien | Chair jury


Tom Thomassen, Facilitator Innovation at The Spindle – Partos, reflected on this week. He sums up the feelings and impressions of this week beautifully:

“At the beginning of the NOW-Us! week 2019 I had the feeling this week was going to be something I had never experienced before. I was right. The special guests of the NOW-Us! Awards, from nine different countries in Africa and Asia, representing five different rightsholders groups, shared with each other their inspiring and often very harsh life stories. To learn how they turned the burdens from their marginalised contexts into fuel for advocating for their rights was a gift that gave me an enriched perspective of the strength and dignity of human life. During the NOW-Us! week, we created a space in which the teams could open up and connect with people from other cultures and other marginalised settings. I did not expect that there were so many similarities in their life stories that led to either in- or exclusion.  During the week unlikely bonds were formed, participants came together formed a tide and refreshed group that can take on the world. I’ll be honest: at the end of the week I was exhausted, my body and mind felt empty, but my heart was definitely full.”

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