‘[Borders] are actually quite fragile – they are only built on the idea that we cannot connect to ourselves and to others’

By Karina Cheah

24/04/2020
Sezan Eyrich

 

Sezan Eyrich

In 2018, Sezan Eyrich spent a semester in Warsaw, studying political science and searching for a comfortable way to discuss political issues. When a friend recommended the Young Ambassadors Programme (YAP) as part of the Tools for Changemakers conference at Caux, she applied in the hope of finding a way to approach sensitive issues from a personal and global perspective. Feminist issues were close to her heart but she found them particularly difficult to talk about: ‘I felt that I was a target, and I found it hard not to get emotional.’

At Caux, Sezan engaged with the IofC approach of storytelling, empathic listening and self-reflection. She credits YAP with giving her the tools to deal with her emotions, engage with other women, remain empathic towards different opinions and create platforms for exchanging views. Although we are often taught to leave emotions aside, she says, self-reflection helped her to understand that prioritizing emotions and emotional well-being is in fact rational. ‘It reshapes our narrative towards the inside and that really makes you understand that you are embedded in the system,’ she explains. ‘The only way you can start changing those systems is understanding how you are embedded in them, the change you want to achieve and the tools you have in front of you.’

When Sezan returned from Caux, she built a women’s programme, Platform V, at her university in Austria. She found that the conversations that took place on it, around dealing with sexism in daily life, were rich with potential. As the programme grew, it evolved from a space for respectful listening and story-sharing to offering training on how to react to sexist structures. Platform V emphasizes the importance of change through connection and empathy – tools that Sezan had taken from her time at YAP. ‘We might think that we are isolated in pain, but the moment we overcome this isolation and start talking to each other and find ways to connect, transformation can truly happen within ourselves and society,’ she explains. Platform V is still running although Sezan has now graduated and moved on.

In 2019, Sezan returned to YAP as a facilitator and is now the coordinator for YAP 2020. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, YAP will take the form of an online platform for former participants to discuss different topics and plans to meet again in person in 2021. Over the last six years, she has lived in five countries as well as her home country of Germany, most recently in Palestine, where she was using the IofC framework to facilitate dialogue between conflicting parties. ‘There is potential for change when you start looking inside yourself and overcoming these borders of separation put upon us,’ she says. ‘[Borders] are actually quite fragile – they are only built on the idea that we cannot connect to ourselves and to others.’

 

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