Local to global advocacy

Global College Student Advisory Council promotes social justice

Emaanmahek Malik, co-chair of the Global College Student Advisory Council, was inspired to become involved in human rights after visiting her ancestral homeland of Pakistan. (Photo by Keeley Braunstein-Black)

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact how outreach programs and student groups at the University of Winnipeg (U of W) recruit new members and connect with local organizations. The Global College Student Advisory Council (GCSAC) aims to bring people together and create a sense of community on campus.

GCSAC consists of U of W students who are interested in human rights and social justice. This advocacy group meets every second Wednesday in the student lounge at Global College and works to spread awareness about different social-justice issues through community outreach, workshops, conferences, fundraising campaigns and volunteer opportunities.

Emaanmahek Malik is the co-chair of the GCSAC and has been involved with the council for a year. Malik says her interest in human-rights advocacy began when she visited Pakistan, where her parents were born, and witnessed women and children experiencing poverty.

“I saw a lot of women on the streets with their little babies who can’t walk ... and they live in (homes) that are just made of cardboard, basically. Any fabric that they could get their hands on, they used to make these little houses.”

This experience prompted Malik to conscientiously pursue global human rights.

“To be a global citizen means to be socially and culturally aware of what’s going on in the world,” she says. “You have to see the bigger picture and understand that you can’t use your own bias to determine someone else’s status or someone else’s idea of living.”

The GCSAC has partnered with the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization of Manitoba (IRCOM) to collect winter clothing for newcomer families. The groups are collecting donations of coats, snowsuits, scarves, gloves, boots and socks of all sizes at the security, Manitoba and Ellice entrances to the U of W campus.

The council is also planning a bake sale to fundraise for Eagles of Change, an organization in Zambia that works to destigmatize mental illness and educate students.

“Our bake sale that we’re planning to do is basically going to provide 100 students with education by covering the cost of school fees, uniforms, exercise books, writing utensils and (menstruation) products,” Malik says.

Many people in Zambia lack access to menstrual products and clean, safe washrooms. Menstruators may not be able to attend school while on their period, and Malik hopes the bake sale will help support more equal access to education and bring awareness to these inequalities.

“We really want to be able to impact those kids in a positive way, because education is something that everyone should have access to,” she says.

As the acting executive director of Global College, Dr. Lloyd Kornelsen says he has observed the work of the GCSAC for two and a half years. He supports their activities and plans in the ways that align with the values of the college.

“I think there’s a need for GCSAC to help students engage with their world in ways that they find meaningful and worthwhile,” he says.

In addition to the winter-clothing drive and bake sale, the GCSAC plans to organize volunteer opportunities with local organizations. They also hope to host a TED Talk speaker series at Global College.

In November, the student group plans to volunteer with Newcomers Employment & Education Development Services (N.E.E.D.S.) Inc. This community organization helps immigrants, refugees and other newcomers integrate into Canadian society.

As for the proposed speaker series, “we’re still trying to coordinate a TED Talk kind of program where we’ll have a specific speaker per month that will come in and talk about anything to do with community-related human-rights programs or what they’re doing to help the community,” Malik says.

Published in Volume 77, Number 08 of The Uniter (November 3, 2022)

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