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IN THE MEDIA – Vincenza Nazzari, Equitas Director of Education, “making the world a better place”

Making the world a better place Meet five Concordians doing good in the world By Sue Montgomery, Concordia Magazine, Winter 2016

(Original article published in Concordia Magazine here: bit.ly/1Oxk0j5)



Leader in human rights education Vincenza Nazzari Vincenza Nazzari says she brings to Equitas a love for education and organization acquired from Concordia’s master’s program in educational technology. In 1995, Vincenza Nazzari, Cert (TESL) 80, MA (ed. tech.) 01, was supposed to be on a short-term loan from the federal civil service to Equitas. The Montreal-based organization has been working for almost 50 years to advance equality, social justice and respect for human dignity by teaching people in Canada and overseas about their rights. When Nazzari arrived at Equitas, it was running just one program — the annual three-week International Human Rights Training Program at John Abbott College in Ste.-Anne-de- Bellevue, Que. And she was a team of one. Twenty years later, Nazzari is still at the non-profit and, as director of education, oversees a team of eight and leads the design of human rights education programs in Tanzania, Haiti, the Middle East, Sri Lanka, Senegal, Colombia and Canada. Whether it be a project on religious harmony in Sri Lanka or working with young women in Montreal neighbourhood Côte- des-Neiges, participants in these programs learn about human rights principles and develop the skills that enable them to become change-makers in their communities. Equitas’s unique activities enable participants to experience what it feels like to be excluded, for example. A recent independent evaluation confirmed that the ripple effect created by Equitas’s training of human rights educators had reached approximately 1.6 million people in more than 80 countries during a five-year span. Equitas programs in Canada currently reach over 100,000 children and youth in over 30 communities. “I felt like I was doing something infinitely useful and it was also much more gratifying,” says Nazzari of why she never returned to the civil service. Today, Equitas is solicited by UN organizations for its expertise. The participatory approaches Nazzari brought to Equitas have contributed to a number of awards for the organization, including the Quebec Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse’s Prix des droits et libertés in 2014. Bringing together people from varied backgrounds and cultures can be a challenge, even if they do work in human rights, yet Nazzari says it comes down to respect. “I think if people can see others as human beings like themselves, they’d have a hard time hurting each other,” she says. “Human rights education enables people to recognize our common humanity, and that’s what makes it so powerful.” Impact on millions Equitas executive director Ian Hamilton has this to say about Nazzari: “Her work, in a very quiet and unassuming way, has had an impact on millions of people around the world. More than anyone else, Vincenza is responsible for the quality and success of Equitas’s human rights education programs.” Since leaving the public service, Nazzari estimates that she has worked directly with more than 2,000 human rights educators from 100 countries. “I had one young woman from the Middle East tell me at a training program, ‘I want to be just like you.’ It really brought home the fact that as an educator, you really have a lot of influence and with that goes a huge responsibility.”

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