by Edith SIZOO
France and Netherlands, Europe.
In 1939 I was born in the Netherlands, in a family of nine children. My early youth was marked by what happened in Amsterdam during World War II and the years after the Liberation with the never ending accumulation of stories -mostly horrible, but many also showing how the worst also brings out the greatest courage and humanness.
During the years of "coming of age" I was driven by the question what the fundamental causes of racism may be. I still have not found the final answer, but my life has been guided all along by the idea that racism (and sexism for that matter) might have to do with deep fear of the otherness of others. This led me to go as deeply as possible into learning to understand what this otherness consists of so as to diminish the fear and - more importantly - to discover the richness of human and cultural diversity. At University I studied French language and literature, anthropology and development psychology.
At the age of 25 I married the man I am still in love with and with whom - in the course of years - I had four children. We left immediately for Hong Kong where we worked in a refugee project , followed by work in the rural areas of India and shorter stays in Indonesia. Wherever we lived we learned the language of the people who received us with such heartwarming hospitality. I discovered that taking language as a starting point, an entry, for discovering a culture, was an incredibly exciting and enriching learning process. A language expresses a peoples’ perception of almost everything: time, space, life, death, being human, social relations, relations with all that lives and also all that is no more.
After our return to the Netherlands I worked four years at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, followed by 12 years as Director of the Netherlands Federation of Development NGOs while being locally active in environmental activities and the women’s movement in its early stage. I left this job in 1989 because I could not live anymore with the eurocentric, ethnocentric approach to development thinking. In spite of the many articles I published, the talks I gave, the conferences I organised, and my rater influençable position, I did not succeed to put the intrinsic relation between cultures and development on the development agenda.
That was the reason why I decided to leave. Together with a group of around 30 people mainly from Africa, Asia and Latin America and a few Europeans, we created the South North Network Cultures and Development with offices in all continents (and some 1.500 adherents all over the world). I went to Brussels to work together with a colleague as coordinators of the European branch of the network. Our activities consist of research, training, and publications.
After 12 years, I handed this most stimulating job over to my successor in Brussels and settled down with my husband in an old farmhouse in French Burgundy. From there I work mainly on the process aimed at promoting a Charter of Human Responsibilities apart from chairing a French/international organisation, playing theatre, exercising Th’ai Chi Chuan and Qi Gong, providing a place to relax for family and friends, doing biodynamic vegetable gardening and - last but not least - : enjoying the beauty of nature !
Books published :
You can reach me at: edith.sizoo byo wanadoo.fr