Lauryn Oates, PhD, is a human rights activist whose work concentrates on international development, women’s rights and education in conflict zones. She has worked throughout the developing world, particularly in Afghanistan.
In 1996, at age 14, Oates read a newspaper article about the Taliban and its treatment of women and girls. She drafted a petition demanding that the world respond to the Taliban’s policies, and has continued this work ever since, working in close partnership with Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan (CW4WAfghan) and other organizations.
As CW4WAfghan’s projects director, her work focuses on strengthening the Afghan education system through teacher training, literacy programs and other initiatives. Oates is currently leading the development of a multilingual online database of educator resources for Afghan teachers, with plans to open an e-learning lab for teachers. Since 2008, CW4WAfghan has graduated more than 4,000 Afghan teachers. The organization puts thousands of girls through school every year. “The right to literacy, the right to education, is a stepping stone to all other basic human rights,” Oates says.
The MA in Human Security and Peacebuilding alumna (2006) has travelled extensively in Afghanistan over the course of about 40 trips since 2003. Today, she spends about a third of her time in Afghanistan and the remainder in Burnaby, B.C.
Oates is a founding member of the Canada Afghanistan Solidarity Committee and a past co-ordinator of the Funders’ Network for Afghan Women. She has authored numerous reports on Afghanistan for organizations such as Global Rights, medica mondiale, the Afghan Research and Evaluation Unit, UNICEF, the Women and Children’s Legal Research Foundation, and Womankind Worldwide. She has served as a consultant or adviser to USAID, the Nike Foundation, the International Fund for Agricultural Development and other agencies.
Oates is a fierce proponent of the universalism of human rights, and speaks to this position frequently in the Canadian and international media. In 2008, the Globe and Mail named her as the first of 10 Canadians to watch in 2009.
In 2012, Oates earned her PhD in language and literacy from UBC. This year, she was awarded a Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal for community service.