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Mukisa Kakembo's participation in a youth‑leadership conference in Ghana will help her become a 'critical and compassionate' lawyer
In early August, first-year Schulich School of Law student Mukisa Kakembo had a transformational opportunity to experience the African Youth & Governance Conference (AYGC) in Ghana. The theme was “Mobilizing Africa’s Youth to Build a Continent Beyond Aid.” A delegation of 10 youth and three facilitators from the African Nova Scotian diaspora were invited to travel from Nova Scotia to participate in the conference by its organizers, the Youth Bridge Foundation.
Bedford resident Kakembo, 22, earned a BSc in psychology and international development this spring from Dal. Here, she tells us what she learned at the conference and why she chose to study at the Schulich School of Law.
An expanded worldview
“At the AYGC we honed our skills in researching, debating, and policy-making. I sat on the Education Committee. The issues we identified were existing barriers to quality education and high dropout rates in school. We focused on barriers such as lack of proper teacher training, lack of technology and resources in classrooms, and restrictions placed on volunteering and community involvement.
“It was inspiring and motivating to connect with both Africans and African Canadians doing amazing work in their communities. I was welcomed into the country with warm Ghanaian hospitality, and what I loved most was how determined everyone was to create genuine, lasting relationships with one another. The WhatsApp group chat from the conference is still highly active, with people sharing resources, scholarships, and opportunities to return to the continent.
“Working with delegates from such a variety of countries and backgrounds gave us the opportunity to learn about our fellow Africans’ experiences. This generosity in sharing stories, struggles, and barriers they’ve faced to accessing employment, education, and proper justice allowed me to gain a deeper understanding of the issues faced by many Africans today. This has expanded my worldview, which will help me become a critical and compassionate lawyer.”
I chose law because I want to develop my ability to advocate for people in a powerful way…Where there is injustice, we need strong voices to challenge it; where systemic discrimination exists, we need legal minds to draft new policies and laws; and when human rights of the marginalized are threatened or violated, we need lawyers to defend them.
“I find research and advocacy work rewarding, and it is my hope that an education in law will enhance these skills and allow me to work further toward effecting positive social change locally, nationally, and beyond. As an African Nova Scotian, I understand that we will always need to advocate for ourselves because of our social position in Canada, the systemic barriers we need to overcome, and our unique cultural needs. In the last few years I have become part of the Pan-African movement, and it has been empowering to engage in a practice of solidarity with all people of African descent.
“I chose law because I want to develop my ability to advocate for people in a powerful way. It deeply concerns me that Black people are overrepresented in the criminal justice system and underrepresented in the positions of authority in the courtrooms. African Canadians are disproportionately negatively impacted by legal systems we have in place, and I want to be an effective resource for my community. Where there is injustice, we need strong voices to challenge it; where systemic discrimination exists, we need legal minds to draft new policies and laws; and when human rights of the marginalized are threatened or violated, we need lawyers to defend them.
“I believe studying law will empower me to help my community gain access to equal human rights and more equitable access to health care and education. Law is an especially interdisciplinary profession, particularly one that expands the opportunities I have to explore those fields. So I have the chance to positively impact all of those areas.”
Passion for social justice
“My passion for social justice and advocacy is at the core of why I want to pursue a career in law. I chose the Schulich School of Law because the Indigenous Blacks & Mi’kmaq Initiative fosters the social justice approach to law. It is rare to encounter a professional program that serves your cultural needs, so I was interested in this law program because of the sense of community it is known to have.
“The IB&M Initiative fosters a supportive environment that I’ll be able to rely on throughout law school. Getting to know some of the professors and students in advance makes going to law school less nerve-wracking and a lot more exciting. Through the IB&M Initiative, I’ve already been able to meet Nova Scotia Chief Justice Michael MacDonald, so I’m confident there will be a number of opportunities to use my voice to make connections and influence lasting change.”
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