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Aida Mwanzia on the Power of Youth in Policymaking
By Jackie Obungah
Jackie Obungah, our office’s Summer 2020 Co-op Communications Specialist, guest hosted an episode of Below the Radar featuring a conversation with Aida Mwanzia.
They discuss the importance of centering Black youth in policymaking initiatives. Aida speaks about her work on a policy brief advocating for a cap on International student tuition. They also discuss her experience working with Ethọ́s Lab to create and facilitate accessibility and inclusivity within tech spaces in Vancouver.
Through her experience with the Level Youth Program Aida chose to focus her policy lens on an International student tuition cap in BC. Having the lived experience of being an International student from Kenya, Aida is keen to spotlight gaps in policy that frame a contrary narrative for International Students.
"Research shows that not only are international students primarily valued for their monetary contributions to post-secondary institutions, they tend not to be as valued for the intellectual, cultural, and social diversity that they offer."
— from Building an Ethical Relationship Between the Province of British Columbia and International Students
Her policy brief pushes for a cap on International Student tuition in BC that will allow more students to be able to afford an education and graduate. In addition, more recognition will be placed on students from less wealthy socioeconomic background whose education journey is impeded by osaring tuition fees.
In the conversation, she highlights the importance of working with like minded youth in policy spaces to create transformational change.
“One of the most important things was seeing people like me represented in policy space, it made me feel like change was possible.”
As Aida points out, youth are often left out of critical decision making processes when it comes to policy. The importance of education and training that allows them to understand how to navigate the ins and out of policy making cannot be overstated. As future decision makers they need to receive valuable credit for the forward thinking contributions they bring to the table. Moreso, marginalised youth who are overlooked and underrepresented in policy spaces, their voices play key roles in community driven solutions on issues facing their communities.
Aida is also a facilitator for Ethọ́s Lab which is a project that leverages the cooperative model to develop networked, members only, youth spaces (inclusive of all youth 13-18) that reflect their technological reality. Integral to this model is the integration of technology in these networked spaces. It’s mission is to foster cultural innovation by providing safe and accessible tech-infused environments that meet the diverse needs of our youth, allowing them to explore the fullest expressions of their authentic selves.
“What is really unique about Ethos Lab is that it centres Black youth in the creation of both digital and physical space.”
Allowing Black youth to have a space that centres their humanity and all its aspects allows them to feel valued and seen in their communities around metro vancouver. Owing to the rampant Anti-Blackness that is usually present in tech spaces, Aida lauds Ethọ́s Lab for being forward thinking and revolutionary in its one of a kind approach.
Read Aida's policy brief: Building an Ethical Relationship Between the Province of British Columbia and International Students
With 5 years of facilitation experience, Aida is skilled at bringing people together to discuss critical topics, create new possibilities, and transform the way that teams interact with one another. She is driven by her mission to connect and empower youth through transformative educational programs, and currently has her own facilitation business. Aida’s roots in Kenya, upbringing in Gambia and experience in Canada inform her desire to shift the narrative about misunderstood places, people, and systems in order to positively shape how we engage with the world around us. You can reach her for booking enquiries at email@example.com, or via Linkedin.