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07 December 2020 / article

Interview finalists ECHO Award 2020 Law & Tax

Süleyman Tosun, Marvin Putuhena, Achraf el Johari are the three nominees for the ECHO Award in the category Loyens & Loeff - Law & Tax. On Tuesday 8 December, the prize for excellent students with a non-western background in higher education will be awarded.

ECHO Awards (EN)

Read their stories below and watch them live at the ceremony tomorrow via this link.

What does this nomination mean to you?

Süleyman Tosun: “It’s always an incredible honour to be nominated for a prestigious prize. Especially when I realise that I am being compared to such talented, successful students. But what the ECHO nomination means above all for me is a feeling of recognition. I was one of only a few students with a non-Western background in my classes at high school and at university. This nomination is the first time I’ve seen how other people experience the same problems as I do, like how difficult it is to go against the grain, to start tough conversations and to feel like you always have to prove yourself without letting go of your identity. But this nomination also shows me that the Netherlands is continuing to progress when it comes to diversity and inclusion. There’s a common goal, and it’s great to see just how many people, companies, organisations and institutions we’re working with to achieve it. Basically, this nomination gives me the energy to keep going, but also a moment to reflect on what I’ve accomplished and to recognise that it’s going well and that there is still a lot of potential.”

Marvin Putuhena: “To start, I want to say that I am very thankful to have been nominated for the 2020 Loyens & Loeff - Law & Tax Award. Since I was 19, I’ve been working in various ways to promote equal opportunities in education, especially secondary vocational education. Lack of equal opportunities is not just a topic for secondary vocational education, but also one that affects other areas of education in the Netherlands. For me, this nomination is a motivation and an opportunity to do even more to achieve equal opportunities within the various areas of the Dutch education system. My goal is to teach people to believe in their hopes, dreams and will power, so that they can get the best out of themselves in this fragmented society we’re all living in.”

Achraf el Johari:For me, being nominated for the ECHO Award means being recognised for the work I’ve done. I’ve been working for years to protect the interests of young people and students, especially those who come from positions of vulnerability or marginalisation. ECHO offers tools for students with a recent migration background to excel and to work on topics related to diversity. This is very valuable to me, because it gives me access to the right network of people who can help me. Especially the ECHO ambassadors’ network and the mentor programme are good ways in which ECHO brings me into contact with people who can spar with me.

How does your background add value to the business world?

Süleyman Tosun: “I grew up in a tricultural family... Moroccan, Turkish and Dutch... so, I never had just one single view of what the world looks like. Instead of slamming the door shut, I decided to understand the world through multiple perspectives. I enjoy encouraging people to share their perspectives and to spar with them so we all learn something. That’s how I am constantly reinventing myself. I want to continue to teach myself new ways of thinking. That’s why I decided to study interdisciplinary studies during my bachelor’s and master’s studies, which was something I didn’t know a lot about to begin with. And even though my bachelor’s programme didn’t have anything to do with law, I was still able to find a way to successfully complete a master’s degree in law. For me, it’s important to be continually challenged, so that I can still manage to master things that seem impossible or incredibly difficult at first. Considering how fast the world is changing, companies must constantly innovate, stay resilient and regularly reinvent themselves, and that’s exactly where my strength lies.”

Marvin Putuhena: In the Moluccan community, we have a saying: ‘Ale rasa beta rasa’. That means: ‘Whatever you feel, whether it's sadness or pain, I feel it alongside you.’ This idea of shouldering the weight together has been a guiding principle throughout my life. I try to use my talents and insights to help others. The way I see it, having a genuine interest in a person and the story behind them, is something that adds value to the business world. I’m also politically active. This has taught me to see the world through other people’s eyes and to put myself in their shoes. And besides that, I grew up among different cultures. I’ve tried to combine all of those aspects and apply my own vision to them. This enables me to quickly adjust to different people of different backgrounds, so I can act accordingly.”

Achraf el Johari:The fact that I grew up in multiple worlds at once has many benefits. I notice that it's made me culturally sensitive and it keeps my mind open, because I always see the added value in different cultures and people. I also grew up in a collectivist culture. Working as part of a team and showing solidarity with others comes naturally to me. And, on the other side, I cannot stand injustice and I can lose sleep over it when others are treated unfairly.

What are your ambitions for the future?

Süleyman Tosun: “I have always dreamt of getting involved in diplomacy in the future, especially in the peace process in the Middle East and Africa. I’m certain that there are many things we can do to prevent conflicts and minimise the impacts on civilians. That’s also why I’m so interested in topics like security, international law and economic development. There’s a lot of overlap between these topics, and I hope that someday I’ll have the opportunity to focus on them in my work as a diplomat.”

Marvin Putuhena: “I earned my master’s degree in jurisprudence this week, and I’m currently in the process of finishing my second master’s degree, which is in international law and human rights. After I finish that, I want to work on the governmental and policy level to take on social issues. That way, I can combine my interests in law and politics.”

Achraf el Johari: Currently, I am an instructor and researcher in training at the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences. The first step in my career will be to become a full-fledged instructor and researcher. After I’ve completed my master’s degree, I want to start focusing on the future. I have my mind set on a career in politics, and I want to translate my activism into the political arena. Other than that, I’ll see which way the wind carries me, and what makes me happy.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Süleyman Tosun: “Everything that you’re struggling with now is someday going to be your greatest strength. It’s okay to fail, to not understand something or to not always feel like you belong. As long as you learn from your mistakes, understand that things aren't always what they seem and always make room for the people who love you. And, maybe most importantly, never be ashamed of who you are!”

Marvin Putuhena: “I want to encourage younger people to discover where their talents and passions lie. Once you’ve done that, you’re automatically going to excel. Sometimes there will be difficulties along the path, but just remember the saying, ‘The best view comes from the hardest climb.’

Achraf el Johari: “Allow yourself the time and space to make mistakes. The gem cannot be polished without friction.”

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