Do you know someone who has made a significant contribution to human rights in Manitoba? Do you know someone who has promoted respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in Manitoba? Nominations must be received by November 1, 2017 at midnight.
Why is sharing human rights stories important? It’s important for everyone to take in a variety of perspectives and experiences. You might not realize, for example, if you’ve personally never dealt with sexism, how it affects people in your community on a daily basis. On the other hand, if you do identify with these struggles, it can be empowering to hear someone’s story of perseverance and strength. It’s important to come together as a community in empathy and understanding.
What change do you hope your involvement will bring to society? Generally, I’d like the world to be safer and more nurturing for young women. As a young girl, I was led to believe I could do anything. But then as I got older, more and more exceptions were tacked on to that rule. I was told things such as, “that’s nice that you like basketball but only men can play in the NBA”, “It’s great that you like to read but boys don’t like girls who ask too many questions”, and then you see misogynists get elected and you’re being told your worth depends on how attractive men think you are. So I’d like young girls to be told they can actually do anything with no exception, and for that to be true. Our expectations for young women need to match their ambitions. In this way, I hope I can be a role model for young women interested in human rights and social justice.
What was your biggest source of strength and motivation as you continued your journey to advocate for gender rights? This can sometimes be a strength and sometimes a bit deflating but, as far as gender equality goes, the job is never done. Women are underrepresented in political and socio-economic institutions and over-represented in ads about botox and contouring and whatever else they’re trying to sell us today. Sometimes the most empowering thing is to just give a big middle finger to sexism and continue on like no one’s ever doubted you before. Even with a Master’s degree, I still get mansplained to. Even in a parka, I still get street harassed. Fighting this fight, or even just existing as a woman, can be so exhausting. Take time for yourself and remind yourself constantly of your accomplishments. Surround yourself with other badass women and support each other.
What do you believe is the most effective way to fight for human rights or raise awareness? Our philosophy at MARL is to address inequality and social injustices at their root cause through education. The more people are aware of systemic issues surrounding racism, sexism, homophobia, etc etc, the more people can come together in solidarity to fight against it. These issues will not go away overnight, it takes a huge cultural and mental shift to address these issues and only then can we begin to think about progress.
Why did you get involved in the movement? A specific story or person? I started getting interested in human rights as a student at the U of W majoring in political theory. I took my first feminist theory class in my third year and it absolutely blew my mind that individuals’ struggles could lie under the surface of our social, economic, and political institutions. As soon as I had the vocabulary to understand the patriarchy, it all just clicked. Suddenly, things I unconsciously understood to be unfair were part of a greater movement. I did my Master’s in Gender Studies and Feminist Theory at McMaster University, and eventually moved back to Winnipeg to work for MARL. I’ve always been most interested in the ideas side of political movements so being involved in the community this way has been really great.
Where can young people start to fight for human rights? A good way to get involved is to start volunteering at your local non-profit. Charities all run on limited resources and need all the help they can get. Volunteering is a great way to get a sense of how people are working in the community and what resources are available to people.
What is your life motto? “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house” – Audre Lorde
Superpower you wish you had and why? The introvert in me is going to say I would be invisible.
Any tips for someone wanting to become a human rights advocate? Getting involved in human rights work is not easy but it’s so worth it. There are times when you’ll be tired and discouraged but just know the work you’re doing is important and it matters.
Why is sharing human rights stories important? Through the sharing of human rights stories people hear and understand more than the facts about a situation. By hearing personal accounts, people get an opportunity to understand and appreciate the trauma individuals have experienced because their rights have violated or abused.
It is an extremely important way to raise general awareness about human rights and to educate people around human rights violations. People’s experiences help to demonstrate the political and government positions on human rights in different countries. It is important to share stories about how some countries do not legitimize human rights and abuse their own citizens. Raising global awareness about these violations can put pressure the violating governments to adopt international human rights laws and to prevent future violations.
What change do you hope your involvement will bring to society? I hope by increasing awareness about human rights that people will become more educated and more tolerant of groups that are different from themselves. This could lead to people becoming more involved and active with respect to human rights issues. The ultimate outcome would be that increased public action would result in government policy changes. I hope that by learning more about different cultures, religions, and nationalities people will understand that we are more similar than different and we all deserve to be treated with respect and kindness.
What was your biggest source of strength and motivation as you continued on your journey to advocate for gender rights and at the Immigrant & Refugee Community Organization of Manitoba (IRCOM)? My biggest motivation to work in human rights came from listening to the children’s stories when I volunteered at IRCOM. Their stories really opened my eyes about what they have been through at such a young age. Learning about all the obstacles they had to overcome such as fleeing their home and country, learning a new language, and adjusting to a completely new culture and country motivated me to help the children as much as I could. Although the children had not had an easy start in their life they were so positive and reminded me to be grateful for being born in a safe country.
What do you believe is the most effective way to fight for human rights or raise awareness? Education on human rights and addressing stereotypical perspectives are important ways to increase awareness and advocacy. It is important to provide impartial and fact-based information about human rights issues and challenge stereotypical perspectives and cultural bias. I believe learning about other cultures, religions, nationalities, is important to break down the barriers that exist between people to understand that there are more similarities than differences between one another. It is not easy to challenge your perspective on issues that you thought you had a solid understanding on and it is important to be open-minded that you may not have all the correct information previously that informed your opinion.
Why did you get involved in the movement? a specific story or person? I became interested in human rights during high school when I joined Amnesty International and started to read books about women in Afghanistan. This educated me about the inhumane treatment of women under the Taliban rule. It disturbed me that a society would tolerate blatant human rights violations. The more I read about the middle east, the more motivated and determined I became to learn more about human rights and what I could do to become an effective advocate.
Where can young people start to fight for human rights? By volunteering at non-governmental organizations, spreading awareness by talking to their friends and family, attending marches, and learning more about what is being done or the lack of it related to their interested topics. In high school I started to volunteer for IRCOM and joined Amnesty International where I participated in letter writing campaigns and spreading awareness about various human rights violations.
What is your life motto? “Do all the good you can, for all the people you can, for as long as you can.” Hillary Clinton adopted this philosophy from her Methodist background.
Superpower you wish you had and why? Probably flying because I love travelling so much and I could see as many countries as possible this way!
Any tips for someone wanting to become a human rights advocate? Focus on a topic that interests you! Educate yourself and raise awareness on it!
What does Canada Day mean to you?
Is it a celebration of the county you take pride in calling your own? Or is it
a day you denounce as meaningless and disrespectful to the many out there that
have lived on this land much longer than 150 years? Unfortunately, I would have
to say the more accurate definition would be the latter, which is evident
through the events/actions that Indigenous people have taken this Canada Day.