MacEwan University recently held its annual Global Awareness Week, a celebration of diversity and culture designed to entertain, educate, and inspire.
There were panels and discussions on social change and intercultural dialogue, as well as a global awareness fair and an education abroad fair. I wandered through the City Centre Campus chatting up presenters at the different exhibits about opportunities for students abroad.
The exhibits were well put-together and interesting. I spoke to a fellow student about studying abroad in Sweden. I played games that raise awareness of the difficulties students face in impoverished countries to get an education. I checked out the ginger beef and the burrito bowls in the cafeteria.
But the display that captivated me was in the library.
Photovoice by MacEwan assistant professor Dr. Rita Dhungel was a fascinating and disturbing photo narrative written by survivors of sexual exploitation and human trafficking in Nepal. Each of the storytellers has her own painful tale of childhood despair, paired with meaningful imagery. The photos and drawings, many representing emotions or memories, brought the stories to life.
In one, the storyteller talks about how, as a young girl, she was offered sacred food by two ladies on the street. Drugged, she woke up on a train to be sold. Another talks about returning to her village after being forced to work in a brothel and having everyone she knows shun her.
While each of the storytellers has persevered and found a way to create a new life for themselves, they also describe the scars left behind. Many of them desire to work in anti-trafficking initiatives and help other survivors. Dr. Dhungel recognizes the participants as co-researchers as they helped to improve understanding of their own difficulties reintegrating into their Nepalese communities.
According to the United Nations, children account for one in three victims of human trafficking worldwide.
As I walked the stairs down out of the library, l thought the university had done a pretty good job on Global Awareness Week. I was entertained, educated, and inspired.
Walking to my next class, I decided to skip the ginger beef.
Cover photo via Flickr.