Day 2 of Rotary’s 2nd Annual Peace in the Streets Conference, held at University of Windsor’s Law building, continued on the theme of coming up with solutions to Rotary International’s mission: To create a more peaceful, just world without violence.
Past District 6400 Governor Dr. Rick Caron, University of Windsor President Douglas Kneale and Director of the Center for Peace and Conflict Studies (Wayne State University) Dr. Fred Pearson led the introductions. Morning panel #1 focused on Human Rights, with panelists Brad Roth (Professor of Law and Political Science, Wayne State University); Theresa Sims (Indigenous Culture and Language Specialist); Alberto Bernal Acero (Mexico Consulate of Canada). Elder Sims gave a powerful speech about her family and her people’s experiences with residential schools, and the struggle the indigenous community still faces every day. Consul Acero explained the trade act of 1974 agreement that allows temporary migrant workers from Mexico to work in Canada and the human rights violations that have at times been experienced. Morning Panel #2 focused on Domestic and Gender Violence with panelists Indrani Pal-Chaudhuri (Filmmaker, photographer, social activist); Mary LaForet (Executive Director, Welcome Centre for Women, Windsor, ON); Jayce Carver (Executive Director, W.E. Trans Support and Allied Service) and Elizabeth K. Landers (Aaron and Marie Blackman Foundation, Grosse Pointe Sunrise Rotary). The 3rd panel concentrated on Indigenous Rights with the panel including indigenous participants from the US and Canada working in ways to advocate and empower native peoples: David Pitawanakwat (University of Detroit Mercy and University of Windsor Law); Sacramento Knoxx (The Aadizookaan); Andrea Pierce (Co-founder and Chair of the Anishinaabek Caucus of the Michigan Democratic Party).
Keynote speaker Indrani Pal-Chaudhuri highlighted the work she has done in film and television, which tackle the devaluation and marginalization of women throughout the world. She was born in India and grew up volunteering for Mother Teresa and from a very young age saw how gender-based violence impacted her country. When she moved to Canada, she realized that unfortunately, gender-based violence is not unique to India. She tries to give a voice to the voiceless with her documentaries. She feels that documentaries target a certain population, but with her work in television (The Handmaid’s Tale TV series), she gets to share these important topics with a broader audience. She wants to reach the hearts and minds of people that would not know these issues.
Next up, the focus was on solutions to Immigration in Canada and the US. Panelists included Kassem Allie (Executive Director, Islamic Center of America); Vincent Artman (Professor, Wayne State University); Joseph Younan (Principal, Dougal High School Windsor, ON). Worldwide, more than 21 million people have been forced to seek sanctuary abroad. Current trends and potential solutions to were expressed.
The conference ended with a keynote address by Dr. Sakena Yacoobi, who began by thanking Rotarians, “beautiful people with a great heart”. She was heartbroken when she returned to her home of Afghanistan and saw the suffering that was happening, especially to women and children, in the refugee camps throughout the country. She decided that to restore people’s dignity, she would focus on teaching – on education. There were many challenges – children were scared. She found trustworthy teachers, so the children would finally have a place where they could feel safe. She went from camp to camp explaining how education is key. Incredibly, she was able to facilitate 15 schools, teaching 27,000 students. In the face of a brutally oppressive Taliban regime, she secretly used education to empower the people of Afghanistan. The question of polio eradication in Afghanistan was raised by DGE Dr. Noel Jackson. Dr. Yacoobi said that with access to the vaccine – it can be done.

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