On 22 and 23 March 2017, the Social Justice and Equity Committee (SJEC) invited two guest speakers in honour of International Women’s Day.

Speaker Zoe Chung talking about her experience working with an NGO in Jamaica providing support for sexual abuse and gender-based violence victims.  Photo: Russell Ijaya

The first guest speaker on 22 March in the East York room was Zoe Chung from the non-governmental organization (NGO), EVE for Life. She had just returned from Jamaica, where she helped adolescent girls suffering from HIV/AIDS or gender-based violence. With a major in Biomedical Sciences and a minor in International Development from the University of Waterloo, Zoe explained how she connected the diseases that she studied in the lab to the people that were living with them. She spoke about the psychosocial effects of sexual abuse and how the mindsets of young girls in Jamaica can be skewed by their surroundings. By scattering her own personal experiences throughout the presentation, the audience was able to connect with her and see through her eyes on this journey. There was also a question session at the end, where participants could ask about opportunities in global development, her career, or anything else.

SJEC invited Zoe as their speaker because they felt her experience working with an NGO to help sexual abuse and gender-based violence victims was an important issue to discuss. Lisa Wang, the Social Justice and Equity Convener, said, “We wanted to simulate thought and discussion on how people around the world are affected by gender-based violence and sexual abuse, and to foster a mindset that it isn’t okay and we need to speak up about it.”

Although SJEC had originally planned for two speakers to present on 22 March, the second speaker’s availability was not confirmed until 20 March. The speaker was later invited to speak at Mr. Alexander’s leadership class.

The second speaker was Catalina Chaux, a lawyer, professor, and now life coach from Colombia. She talked about her experience as an immigrant from Colombia to Canada and the role of women as leaders in all parts of society—be it home, work or school. She encouraged students to be curious and find out what they’re truly passionate about. At the end, she discussed her work as a life coach.

The talk was well received by the audience. Ruknoon Dinder said, “I wanted to see how NGOs go about doing this amazing job, the challenges they face. I was impressed, and I learned a lot about other countries with similar problems at the meeting as well.” Lisa was also pleased by how the event went, saying, “The presentation was really engaging because of the anecdotes which actually shed light on real situations.” However, she said the event could have been improved if they had gotten a more diverse audience to come, since most audience members were from SJEC or the Politics of Garneau Club.