Ruva Gwekwerere, 21, Sudbury
Development and Peace
Ruva Gwekwerere has packed plenty of world experience into her 21 short years. Born in Zimbabwe, she lived in the US for five years before moving to Canada in 2008. Speaking with the eloquent Laurentian student on the phone, you’d never suspect she’s still an undergraduate. In addition to her studies, Ruva works with Development and Peace as their National Youth Representative, serving on the board of directors and overseeing local representatives.
Ruva first became involved with the organization in high school, deciding to attend one of their retreats. While participating in a roleplaying activity which demonstrated the effects of a mining company entering a community in the south, she was made aware of the interconnected nature of decision-making. “It was a very realistic depiction of the results of our interests in Canada affecting other countries,” she says. “Being from the Global South—and seeing firsthand the difference in life between here and there—encouraged me to get involved.”
Ruva’s first project with Development and Peace was a campaign against bottled water, using street theatre (among other techniques) to educate the public about the issues surrounding the commodification of water. She and other volunteers placed an ‘out of order’ sign on a vending machine in a high traffic area, and took the opportunity to share information with members of the public who approached the machine intending to buy bottled water.
“I think it’s so important that we keep the person at the centre of this,” Ruva says. “The way we’re doing the work, it’s participatory and democratic, and appreciates the dignity of the individual.”
Last year Ruva worked on Create A Climate of Change, a campaign focused on climate change and small scale farming, which involved a letter writing initiative asking the Prime Minister to act on the United Nations’ Agenda 21. Last summer she was also selected to attend the World Social Forum, a 14-day event including workshops and speaking panels, blending theoretical concepts and individual stories. “Activism is all about learning other people’s stories,” Ruva says. “I may think my work is pivotal, but I need to join together with people who are doing other work. The best way to be able to solve these challenges is by looking at them from different points of view.”
She is currently planning a youth conference in Ottawa on food sovereignty and security for this summer, an idea she created with a friend. Approximately 50 16- to 30-year-olds from across the country will be in attendance.
“Youth have a lot of passion, which is really important in work like this. They also have innovative ways of doing and looking at things.”
Moving forward, Ruva plans to pursue a master’s degree related to international development. She will also continue her three year term as National Youth Representative. “The long term goal is to develop a more solidified youth strategy that focuses on the needs of youth in the organization.”
Development and Peace is an international development organization which supports partner organizations in the Global South working for social change.