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Carleton University Student and Former Miss Canada Wins Award Before Heading Off to Africa

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September 29, 2005

Source: Carleton University:

Carleton University Student and Former Miss Canada Wins Award Before Heading Off to Africa

Cristina Remond may have once competed at Miss Universe, but don't stereotype her for an instant. In the space of a few short weeks, this Carleton University student has won a prestigious award in Feminist Anthropology, and is off to West Africa for six months of human rights advocacy.

Passionate about injustice, Cristina began a degree in Human Rights and Anthropology at Carleton in 2001. After working on Parliament Hill, she spent three months in a dusty and remote Kenyan refugee camp interning with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. During her time there, she tackled a blight that shames all societies: sexual and gender-based violence against women and girls.

Her research has just won her the Sylvia Forman Prize. The Association for Feminist Anthropology (AFA), a chapter of the American Anthropological Association, awards the prize annually to the best undergraduate paper. Says Florence Babb, president of AFA: "This study...contributes significantly to feminist anthropology and makes a compelling case for the protection of refugee rights."

In her work, Cristina analyzed how women living with violence appeal to law and authority for protection, and she suggested new strategies for effective response.

"Camps are complicated places, with international law, national law, police, NGOs, community leaders, and traditional authority all vying for the responsibility to protect refugees," Cristina explains. "In this uncoordinated competition for supremacy, women and other survivors of violence are failed systematically."

This Saturday, Cristina leaves for six months in Gambia interning with the African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights. There, she will help human rights defenders from all over the continent collaborate so that African Commission for Human Rights, and African governments, receive their messages loud and clear. The internship is coordinated by Montreal-based Rights and Democracy, a cutting edge Canadian organization.

Cristina was drawn to studying human rights because of a family legacy - her mother and grandparents were refugees who escaped the 1956 revolution in Hungary.

"I was looking for a discipline that responded to large-scale and man-made violence, that asked difficult ethical questions, and had a focus on effective response. For me, human rights is that discipline, and anthropology is the method."

Carleton's Human Rights program is the only cross-disciplinary undergraduate Human Rights program in Canada, which gave her the option to combine Human Rights with other disciplines such as anthropology, law, political science, and women's studies. "The program gives you a lot of latitude and you can really hone in on your interests."

"My most inspirational professors have stood on desks, yelled, challenged students to engage, and made impassioned pleas to critical thought Academics isn't just about getting a degree, it's about rigorous method applied to your purpose in life, with a chance to make a difference."

"Cristina is an outstanding example of what Carleton students can achieve, given the education they receive in the Anthropology and Human Rights programs," says Blair Rutherford, who is Cristina's thesis advisor.

Residing in Ottawa allowed her the "immensely rewarding democratic experience" of working on Monia Mazigh's (wife of Maher Arar) electoral campaign. She has also walked on fire, and flies small airplanes in her spare time.

What's next after six months in Gambia? Cristina tells us that there are no definite plans yet, but they are sure to make Carleton proud.



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