Saskia Kouwenberg has spent 25 years – half her life – as an activist. Everything from indigenous people’s land rights, to national independence, to anti-nuclear and anti-war work has been the focus of her campaigning. Although not affiliated to one group, she has worked alongside Amnesty International, the United Nations, and Moluccan and East Timorese organizations, in all kinds of ways. From mediating in conflict resolution classes to trespassing on military bases, Saskia will try any method to achieve her goal of a better, safer, fairer world.
Saskia Kouwenberg grew up in an agricultural area of North Brabant in the Netherlands, near the Belgian border. Political awareness was non-existent in her village of Zundert, so as a teenager she never imagined the future that lay before her. "I was not somebody who said on her twelfth birthday, 'I want to be a peace activist when I grow up.'" All that changed when she travelled around the world at the age of 19. She followed the hippie trail through India and Afghanistan, where her travels brought her into contact with something unknown in cozy, middle-class Netherlands: poverty. It shocked her. She had never seen it before. And her eyes were opened to other things unimaginable back home in the Netherlands. She met and learned from inspirational people and began to understand that the world is made up of many points of view. This understanding is perhaps the prime mover behind everything she does. “I met people with totally different views on life. That was a very big surprise to me,” she recalls. “Different people with totally different opinions can be right. That is maybe what I use most throughout my work.” Through travelling she realized that the world was her problem now, that there was no such thing as "foreign": “From then on, I felt like a world citizen.” And you can see from the way that she darts about, taking sides with people who are being treated unfairly, no matter where in the world they may be, that she means it when she says: “Responsibility does not end at borders.”