Closing keynote speaker: Aminata Cairo

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Aminata Cairo has dedicated her life’s work to giving a voice to overlooked, silenced, or otherwise marginalised populations. In her applied anthropological work with students and community organisations, she has continually strived to promote inclusion at both the academic and the community level. Her work is essential to all to create safe spaces for discussion on diversity issues and to build cross-cultural bridges. Her tireless passion for inclusive education has also earned her Dutch national nomination of 2018 Lector of the Year.

Born in the Netherlands to Surinamese parents and studying abroad as an international woman of colour, Aminata knows first-hand the challenges of diversity and inclusion in higher education. While pursuing her Master’s degree and PhD in Medical Anthropology in the USA, her work with student communities to promote inclusion at both the academic and social level at the university earned her the Martin Luther King Jr. Humanitarian Award. She also received the Honorary Order of the Palm, a state decoration by the Government of Suriname for her contributions to culture. Upon her return to the Netherlands she has worked in diversity and inclusion policy at Leiden University before leading the Inclusive Education research group at The Hague University of Applied Sciences.

In addition to her academic activities, Aminata has pursued her love for African Diaspora Dance forms and has danced professionally with several dance companies, including her own. Her work in the arts is integrated into her vision and approach towards mental well-being. Her PhD dissertation studied a mental well-being model of working class Afro-Surinamese people, a model she used in her subsequent work with African refugees and Latino migrant workers in Kentucky.

Closing Plenary keynote address

During the Closing Plenary, Aminata spoke on how education systems – and indeed every other institution in society – tend to elevate certain groups’ narratives over others, inherently silencing the voices of those whose ‘story’ does not match the dominant one. She called upon all in attendance to shift our cultural narratives to truly encompass all voices.