What does this nomination mean to you?

Akhi Bansidhar: “This nomination means a lot to me. It shows that my work on Diversity and Inclusion is appreciated and that the University of Amsterdam has confidence in my approach. It is a challenge to be nominated, but even more challenging to be a finalist of the ECHO Tax and Law Award by Loyens and Loeff. I see it as motivation to continue doing what I do. Diversity and Inclusion is a topic that always deserves more attention in society. Communication is crucial between employers and students especially when coming from different cultural backgrounds. By doing so, they know each other's worlds of experience and Diversity and Inclusion can be motivated. Diversity, inclusion and equity sometimes requires adjustment in current policies, but ensures an increase in quality, because after all, it is a prerequisite for a quality society.

"Inclusion is not a matter of political correctness. It is the key to growth."

I hope to be a role model for students of cultural background to take all opportunities, build a social network and always see your cultural background as a pride. The work we do with the company Active Minds is very valuable. We make sure by setting up and supervising youth panels that young people and employers can interact. We advised clients in the private and public sector. I would really like to continue the work and advise more organisations in the field of diversity and inclusion.”

Yasmine Bouzoraa: “Being nominated for an ECHO award means being part of an inspiring group of young people. It means being able to take part in different projects and to work towards more diversity together. To me personally, it also means gaining a platform to share my experiences, but also my research, which focuses on democracy and democratic values. I can honestly say that it also feels quite good to get some recognition for the work I have done over the past few years. I am really proud to have been nominated for this important award.”

Zahra Farshchi: “I am very flattered to be nominated as an ambassador for ECHO. I find it to be very inspiring to be nominated for the Tax and Law award especially, as I would have never imagined to qualify for such a nomination in the first place. My nomination feels like a recognition for the work I put in the past years to get where I am right now. It also motivates me to keep advocating for opportunities for people with similar backgrounds, both in my academic environment as well as with my charity work. I think that especially in this day and age it is important for people of different backgrounds to know that there are people that share the same stories and experiences as them. In this context, I find it endearing to be part of a community that holds similar values and is as motivated to promote diversity and equality within education and in different fields of society.”

Yasmine Finani: “For me, being nominated for the ECHO-award means that I have been given a chance to meet and connect with a lot of intelligent and like-minded people. Besides that, as an ambassador for ECHO, I hope to join workshops and other sessions where we can discuss how to deal with topics such as diversity and inclusion in the legal field. I am currently working as a defense attorney and aspire to reduce the racial, ethnical, social and cultural differences in the court room by shedding light on the backgrounds of my clients.”

Parwana Rezai: “To be nominated for this Award is a huge honour. What it means is more than meets the eye; It is a recognition of social issues and the importance of fighting them. This nomination makes the work that I stand for visible, it allows me to raise awareness for the work that has been done, can be done and must be done. I came here once as a refugee and to be able now to use my abilities to fight for those that come after me and many others struggling to find their identity and equal chances; it feels like a full circle. It makes me even more motivated to pursue the goals I have set out and encourages me to knock down any barrier when it comes to achieving the inclusive, equal society that I always envisioned, even as a girl in Afghanistan. Be it within a social, academic or personal context.”

Tais Ruiz: “I was quite happy when I received news that I got nominated for the ECHO Law and Tax Award. It felt like a recognition of the effort and work that I have done over the past years to increase the presence of diverse perspectives in the legal field. Moreover, it motivates me to keep towards working for the promotion of inclusion and diversity, especially after meeting all the other nominees and getting to know more about their projects. Knowing that other people are interested in similar things creates a sense of community, and a wish to work more to contribute to this community.”

What are your ambitions for the future?

Akhi Bansidhar: “I would like to finish my law studies and combine that with something international. I like many different languages and cultures. At VWO I had Russian, French, German, English and Dutch as languages, for example. I am currently on exchange in Argentina to study Economics and Law entirely in Spanish. In Latin American studies, I chose Portuguese as my language. I would like to combine my social engagement, my ambition and eagerness to learn in order to contribute to society and stand up for people.”

Yasmine Bouzoraa: “Right now I am working on my PhD research, which I started in September. On the side, I am also teaching European law to bachelor's and master's students. Through both my research and teaching I hope to inspire a younger generation to develop an interest in democracy and democratic values, as well as how to attain those democratic values through law. For at least the next four years, I will stay in academia to do exactly that. After finishing my PhD, I might want to move into legal practice or become a judge, in order to have more of an immediate effect on the world. However, I am not sure I would want to leave academia. Seeing students develop over three or four years is one of the best parts of the job, and I believe that one can have a lot of influence through teaching.”

Zahra Farshchi: “I grew up in a refugee centre from the age of 3 to 11, after me and my family left Iran. Here, I witnessed how my parents as well as other families dealt with the Dutch judicial system. The way the Dutch administrative and judiciary powers functioned, especially in the field of refugee law, was an interesting thing to experience. Moreso when taking into account the role of lawyers. In some cases, proper legal aid made the difference between spending years of hardship in a refugee center and in some cases, spending just months there. Because of this, I already knew that I wanted to study law at the age of 11.

Right now, as I am in my first year of a double legal degree, I am interested as ever in the functions of the Dutch judiciary and administrative law. My ambition is to pursue legal research aimed at analysing these functions, mainly in terms of proportionality in different legal administrative systems and how these are applied in the judiciary. Currently I am in the works of figuring out a PhD topic in relation to this topic, as I would like to possibly do a PhD and essentially continue working in academia.

Moreover, I would love to continue my work as a voluntary legal advisor at Vluchtelingenwerk Nederland. I have been part of this organization for the past four years and would love to keep giving back to people that are in difficult situations by using the legal knowledge that I have obtained during my degree.”

Yasmine Finani: “In the future, I hope to be focussing mostly on (international) human rights cases within the field of (international) criminal law and perhaps even do research abroad.”

Parwana Rezai: “The future to me is one with a lot of possibilities. I am closely involved in identity and inclusion networks, refugee networks and Afghan networks, be at as a projectleader, vice-president or community builder. My personal goal is to combine my experiences in all these areas and serve them on a higher level when it comes to policymaking and technology. The latter is a passion in which I see gaps when it comes to inclusion such as digital divide and discriminatory algorithms. I want to achieve sustainable policmaking in this area alongside building up communities and serving the ideal of social justice.”

Tais Ruiz: “My main goal in the short term is to graduate from my master’s program (Legal Research Master at Utrecht University), as well as make the most of the opportunities offered by this LRM to engage in my own research and with the academic community. Concerning more long-term goals, I would like to have the opportunity to do a PhD and eventually become a professor. Having worked as a tutor in the past, I have found that teaching is a rewarding job, and I would like to help encourage future lawyers and academics in the same way my professors have in the past.
In general, I would like to research more into non-Western legal systems and be able to increase diversity and inclusion in the legal (academic) community. I have made it one of my goals to continue promoting other students and academics, especially those coming from ‘underrepresented’ legal orders, to become more involved with research networks.”

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Akhi Bansidhar: “I would advise myself to take every opportunity available to me in the way I am currently doing. It is important to always stay critical towards yourself, getting the most out of life and not only studying, but also to develop yourself socially. It is important to work hard. For example, I set up my own foundation. Labour Migration Foundation the Netherlands, alongside my enterprise Active Minds, a consultancy for youth participation and diversity and inclusion, and I joined a sailing club in Amsterdam.”

Yasmine Bouzoraa: “I would advise my younger self not to get discouraged by being different to everyone else. When I was younger, all I wanted was to have long blonde hair and to fit in with my peers. But now I understand that diversity is a beautiful thing, and that you do not have to look like everyone else, or be the same as everyone else, in order to fit in. Looking back, I wish I would have invested more time discovering my heritage, for example through learning the language. It is something I am working on right now, but it is much easier to learn a language when you are younger.”

Zahra Farshchi: “I got off on a rocky start when it came to my academic career. I started off at the Dutch theoretical level (vmbo-tl), because of a lack of understanding on what the Dutch education system entailed in the first place. Being a first generation student and the first one within my family to follow Dutch education, me and my parents were not exactly well-informed on how the system worked. It was a tough realization that law at university level would not be attainable with the level of high school education I had started with. Let’s be fair, the Dutch education system is not one made to climb up the ladder once you are already at a certain level. Thus, I had to gradually ‘climb my way up’.

During these years in which I studied at vmbo, havo and HBO niveau, it was sometimes hard to believe in myself. It was difficult for me to believe that I am in fact able to attain a higher level. This journey lasted for years and essentially made me doubt myself often. Despite the odds being initially against me, this year I obtained both my university bachelor’s degree and Honours degree with a 8.4 grade average.

My advice to my younger self would be to believe in my own abilities. I’d advice myself to not shy away from taking on new opportunities and have confidence. It is also very important to recognize the support you do get from people in your surroundings. I am entirely grateful for my parents supporting me, despite other people telling me that my capabilities might be limited. Confidence and support are of great importance in order to further develop yourself and pursue your interests.”

Yasmine Finani: “My advice to my younger self is to worry less about the future because, in the end, everything will fall into place.”

Parwana Rezai: “To my younger self I would say: Be patient. You will find your place. Even between homes, lands and people. In. fact you will become a community builder and be able to give back. You will see your mother again and you will go to school and will start loving books and live in them.”

Tais Ruiz: “The most important advice is to have confidence in yourself and your capacities, and to know that there are many people that can, and want to, support you. Moving to The Netherlands by myself as a young adult, I struggled with a lot of feelings of loneliness and insufficiency.

However, the past few years have taught me that the most important things are to believe in my capacities and in my ambitions, and that it is important to build a support network. I do not think that I would be able to have accomplished many of the things that I have done without my friends, family and peers.”

ECHO awards