The Jeanne Sauvé Foundation’s Forum events explore Public Leadership For Culturally Diverse Societies and aim to enrich public conversation around complex global problems while promoting the skills, values and public leadership needed to address them.

Since the launch of the 2015-17 Jeanne Sauvé Public Leadership Program, the in-residence Sauvé Fellows have been honing the art of “public narrative”: telling personal stories that link people to calls for social change.

On April 27, 2016, the Foundation hosted Diversity & Leadership through Storytelling at Sauvé House. During this special event, the Fellows presented personalized public narratives to an audience of peers, stakeholders and community members, exploring themes of equality, inclusion, exclusion, identity, peace and power. In doing so, they effectively bridged the personal and the political, advancing new ideas in the public interest, and left audience members inspired.

It was a very moving, powerful and intense experience. I am very thankful to all and I’m really happy I attended. It was very enriching. – Audience member

The evening’s storytelling was as diversified and inspiring as the Fellows themselves. Following introductory remarks, the first group of Fellows spoke about the complexities of belonging and identity in the globalized era. Edison, born-and-bred Londoner, shared his experience with racism in his home country and his desire to pursue culturally responsive pedagogies in his own work. Brijlal then spoke about his journey after leaving his home country Nepal and his community at a young age to study abroad. Rachel expressed how she built an identity around her Northern roots in Yellowknife, which in turn shaped her multidisciplinary advocacy work. Finally, Costin delivered his narrative, which focused on leaving Romania and the struggles of his peers living in rural Romania.

The first narratives were followed by remarks by Kahiennes Sky (from the Kanawà:ke Survival School), her partner Jeffrey Diabo and their teenage daughter Cora Kahsennisakhe Diabo, who performed “Esganye’ Women’s Song”, a song she herself composed.

After Cora’s powerful performance, the Fellows told stories relating to inclusion and exclusion. Maya spoke of the violence, turmoil and discrimination in Israel. She also highlighted the cooperation, optimism and shared humanity she’s witnessed in her home country. Svjetlana shared her family narrative of internal displacement and discrimination in Bosnia Herzegovina, a story that ended on the beauty of friendship, difference, and diversity. A few moments later, we were transported to Nigeria, where Charles, from an early age, has had to confront the power of tribal identity politics. Then, Sabrina shared her thoughts on the types of leadership that rejects diversity and denies human dignity. She spoke of the duality of her French and Tunisian roots and the sharp racism she’s experienced in France, which has led to feelings of marginalization and inequality.

Finally, the third group of Fellows explored diversity in its many forms. Syed shared a narrative focused on intolerance, radicalization and extremism in Pakistan, stating that we must strive for peaceful coexistence and reconciliation, especially in contexts of cyclical violence. Jaspreet talked about her time working in an ER in Western Canada as well as the importance of identifying social determinants of health to better equip medical practitioners to face both the causes and politics of healthcare issues. This was followed by Rolando’s personal story of growing in poverty in the Philippines and the power of education and advocacy to change one’s life. Jon closed the evening’s narratives with his story of moving away from international development to follow a more grassroots career in advocacy where agency, respect and intersectional problem solving became key to community building.

The Foundation would like to thank the VOX Method team and Simone Hanchet, Director of Programs, for diligently working with the Fellows on their public speaking skills over the past 8 months. Their support and dedication allowed for these powerful narratives to take shape. Above all, we would like to thank the Fellows for sharing their personal, heartfelt stories with the public – who left Sauvé House all the more motivated and inspired by these young leaders.

To watch the Diversity and Leadership through Storytelling video, click here.

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