Eunice Gichuhi shares her poetry at student peace rally. Photo by Jean Ko Din

High school students rally for more peace-building support for women around the world

  • May 7, 2018

Eunice Gichuhi and her family came to Canada for more opportunity, but it didn’t mean that she would forget the community she left behind. 

Growing up in Kenya, the then 11-year-old Gichuhi knew exactly what it meant to not have the same opportunities as the boys. She saw it in her elders, her neighbours and even her classmates. 

So when Gichuhi attended a student rally April 25 organized by Development and Peace, it wasn’t just for a social justice cause — it was a personal one. She joined more than 500 high school students at Toronto’s Nathan Phillips Square, asking for more peace-building efforts that support women around the world. 

“When you go to school, you see that most of the kids are boys and you’re just like, ‘Why are there not girls in school?’ Or like when you go to the villages and you find a lot of the girls are just at home cleaning,” said Gichuhi, now 17. “The awareness of this oppression is raised at such a young age that when you come here (to Canada), all you want to do is just make changes.”

Since November last year, the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace - Caritas Canada has been running an education and action campaign titled “Women at the Heart of Peace.” The campaign calls for the Canadian government to meet the United Nations’ goal for wealthy countries to contribute 0.7 per cent of their gross national income to development assistance. 

“While encouraged by the increase in the last federal budget, students are still concerned that it is not enough to get us much further past Canada’s current contribution levels of 0.26 per cent,” according to a statement by Development and Peace. 

Inspired by the campaign, Gichuhi performed spoken word poetry she wrote about women peacebuilders working with Development and Peace around the world. 

“Women at the heart of peace, / Supporting women is supporting peace, / Without them the world would cease to exist,” Gichuhi said at the rally. 

The rally began at the City Hall’s Peace Garden where students reflected on a monument containing the eternal flame which was lit by Pope St. John Paul II from the Memorial for Peace in Hiroshima in 1981. 

“I hope that by looking at the flame that was originally lit by Pope John Paul (it) ignites a fire for peace in each and every one of you,” said Luke Stocking, rally organizer and Central Ontario animator for Development and Peace.

At the rally representatives from 18 Catholic high schools in the Greater Toronto Area presented a stack of postcards which contained signatures of almost 20,000 students. 

In the postcards, which were destined for the prime minister’s office, signatories called for the Canadian government to commit to peace-building efforts of women around the world. 

The rally took place just two days after 10 people died when a van struck pedestrians on the sidewalk along a stretch of Yonge Street. In light of this violence, Stocking said it was even more important for students to be present and visible.

“Now more than ever to have a voice for peace is vital,” he said. “I think it’s great for Toronto to see here are young people saying ‘no’ to the violence that we saw in our city.” 

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