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EvelyneWe are the economy

Evelyne was born in Uganda in 1978 and came to Canada with her mother in 1988. Evelyne is finishing a degree in conflict resolution studies and international development from the University of Winnipeg.

Evelyne says:

I think my whole perception about the economy and the world we live in changed when I went back to Uganda last year. Suddenly I wasn't thinking about economy in terms of the numbers, the statistics of how much people make and who's bringing home what but how much input everybody has in running the world.

When I say running the world I'm thinking about it on a grassroots level - the work women do at home and the work men do at home and outside of the home. In Uganda it's mostly agriculture. Women work in the garden and take care of the kids - and not just one or two kids but five or six - and they still have to harvest and plant the food, cook the food, fetch the water, take care of sick kids.

I actually learned that work myself when I was young. In Uganda at five or six years old girls are already going to the well to fetch water, cooking, babysitting youngsters. At seven and eight years old you're babysitting the one, two, three year olds.

Being in Uganda again I became aware of how this everyday kind of activity that is women's work is sometimes overlooked.

Evelyne at schoolI also became aware of all the misconceptions between the North and the South. Because I have the advantage of having lived in both places I can help dispel some of those myths. In the South there's this perception that the North is the best place to be: there's no poor people, it's just rich people. There's no wars, it's all peaceful and everybody gets along. There's no conflict at all. The media shows this.

In contrast in the North I get the opposite - people feeling really sorry and apologetic almost, of people in the South and thinking that it's only about poverty.

That whole issue of money just really bugs me. I think money demeans and diminishes because it identifies who you are. In Uganda I experienced how money is so irrelevant. There people's lives still go on. People live life even fuller than we do here without that money. Here we're always on the go, go, go, and it's all about how much we can have and how much we can consume. Coming back here, where money makes the world go round has been very, very difficult.

So now when I think of the economy I think about an awareness of the world around us. I think it's how everyone as an individual can have an input no matter where they're living regardless if it's an international input or within the community, your neighbour or your environment - it's just that little input we can have. I think it's how we are consciously aware of how our actions benefit the economy and people around us. It's not just individuality, it's how individuals as a whole, how their actions affect the world as a whole. It's a collective input.

When we think of the economy in a materialistic kind of economics, statistics, numbers kind of way it dehumanizes people. If that's what the economy is then what are the people, what are we? I like to think that we are the economy - we make up the economy just by our actions, being aware of what we're doing and how that affects other people. I emphasize sustainability, because I think it's how we are consciously aware of how our actions benefit the economy and people around us.

Before I left I didn't really think I was part of the economy. I was a student and thought I just go to school, go to my part-time job, go home. I never really thought I had input. People have the idea that as kids we breathe and just consume things. I guess I don't see myself as that anymore. I think twice of where I'm going, if I'm driving or if I'm walking, if I really need such and such an item when I'm shopping I think of how to use it to conserve it rather than just use it for the sake of it's there, let me use it.

When I think about the global economy and my background I see that I made a 360. I came as a young child not knowing what I wanted to do and where I was going and then I studied international development and learned about Africa and the other countries in the South - my home. Having made those connections, I guess it just made me more aware of where I came from - a third-world country. I know it's lacking in a lot of things but when I say the so-called third-world country, I don't believe in those terms. And now I've gone back home to what they call a third-world country and now I can be a connection, a medium between the two places.

In the Ugandan community here I have a role in mentoring the youngsters that are born here. I can help young girls who grow up wondering "Am I African?" "Am I Canadian?" and find themselves in a society where it's not so easy to be accepted because you're different. My role is to help them grasp the experience of having both cultures and appreciate both of them regardless of what other people say about that.

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