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Anti-oppression activist Sabra Desai’s lessons in equity

All of the awards Sabra Desai has received in a long and distinguished career as an educator and activist – including the YWCA Woman of Distinction Award for her work empowering women through education; the New Pioneers Community Service Award; the South African Women for Women Human Rights Award and the International Alliance for Women Award – recognize her work with immigrants, women and youth.

“I have always worked with an anti-oppression, anti-racism perspective,” says Desai, whose own life was shaped by experiences as a child growing up in apartheid South Africa and her early experiences in Canada when a school counsellor told her she was aiming too high, that she should be more realistic in her goals.

A thread of social justice and equity runs through her work.

“I truly believe that each one of us has a purpose, and that as we try to fulfil that purpose, we can try to make a difference in the lives of others. The whole thing is to find that purpose. For some, that can be a lifelong journey.

“It is inspirational for me to see opportunities opening up for people, showing them the possibilities. I stand on the shoulders of all those who created opportunities for others. I see it as my responsibility to pay it forward.”

Desai says many immigrants come with educational assets and she tells newcomers, women and youth to believe in themselves. To learn more about what drives them, their passion, what motivates them to get out of bed in the morning.

“Never give up on your dreams. Network, find people who are willing to show you the way. See yourself in the driver’s seat of your dreams. Be the architect and builder of your dreams.”

Posted: Sep 6, 2017

June 2019

Centennial College

Immigration Peel Canada

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