Human Library: Face to face against racism in Vevey and Montreux

A Human Library Event


For the 2019 European Action Week against Racism, IofC facilitated two human libraries in Montreux and Vevey, offering face-to-face interactions on the links between discrimination, immigration and unemployment.

The events, in partnership with the municipalities of Montreux and Vevey and the Maison de Quartier Jaman 8, took place at the municipal library of Montreux and Veytaux on 18 March and the municipal library of Vevey on 21 March. They were moderated by Brigitt Altwegg, Programme Manager for IofC Switzerland.

Enriching Encounters

The evenings started with a welcome speech by Maya Maharjan, who ran the Week against Racism in the area. Brigitt presented the five speakers: Gianfranco La Rosa, Salihe Lekiki, Khaled Omar, Esra Öner and Marie Saulnier-Bloch. Then members of the audience chose a speaker to engage with, by listening to their story for 10 minutes and talking with them for another 10.

Human Library, Week against Racism

The conversations that developed ranged from the practical to the philosophical. In some groups the speaker was given practical advice about how to find a job, while others discussed how to overcome bias. One of the human books, who has spent the last five years searching for a full-time job, said ‘It's not Switzerland's employers who discriminate against me, it's just that everybody is biased. I'm biased too. We all see the world through biased lenses. But when I feel I'm making assumptions about somebody I say "stop" and I try to work on myself.’

After two rounds of listening and conversation, the audience came together again. They were given one minute of silent reflection, and then the conversation continued in small groups. ‘Empathy’, ‘differences’, ‘resilience’, ‘insights’ and ‘resourceful’ were a few of the keywords that emerged.

Audience and speakers continued to talk over refreshments. Everybody seemed to have enjoyed the event: participants wished they could have had more time with the speakers, would have liked to have engaged with more than two of them and said they would come to a future human library.

Our next Human Library will be on 7 April in Geneva, you can read more here.


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