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Royal Roads to honour activist with leadership award
As a teenager, Lauryn Oates considered herself a budding activist but never thought she would turn her passion into a career.
Now, 17 years since she passed around her first petition asking the Canadian government to stop the Taliban from abusing women’s rights in Afghanistan, she’s still fighting.
“The first time I ever stepped foot on the ground [in Afghanistan], I had this strange feeling like it was a second home,” said Oates, who works there as a consultant, mostly in education. “It was very climactic to get there for the first time after the Taliban were forced out.”
For her work on women’s and educational rights in Afghanistan, Oates is receiving Royal Roads University’s Alumni Leadership Award, which is given out twice a year.
Oates is one of two alumni being recognized at the spring convocation ceremony on Wednesday. Jacki Scales, a manager in Deloitte’s diversity and inclusion practice, will receive the alumni award for excellence.
Oates’s connection to the university goes beyond her time spent working on her masters degree in human security and peacebuilding in 2006. She created the consulting company Ready Set Global with three other Royal Roads grads. At Royal Roads, she said, “I got to meet a lot of people with similar interests.”
She plans to offer some radical advice to graduating students: “The important thing I’ve learned: Don’t be afraid to offend people.”
Oates aims to get to Kabul as many times as she can in a year, and admits teaching there has its challenges.
Lessons about women’s rights need to be cloaked under the subject of biology.
Oates recalls one incident where trainers were teaching village residents about the anatomy of human brains. One man came up after the talk and asked where the female brain model was, assuming it was a lot smaller. She laughs, saying the man was shocked to find out they were pretty much the same. He also said he would no longer hit his wife on the back of the neck anymore because it was too close to the brain.
While she says parts of the Western world have become fatigued from hearing about Afghanistan and its problems, Oates has no plans to give up the fight.
When she meets with the younger generation of Afghan citizens, she’s encouraged by their desire to grow up not to be warlords but teachers or journalists. “I see myself as a ‘lifer’,” she said. “I’ve seen enough changes to keep at it.”
ROYAL ROADS CONVOCATION
Where: Royal Theatre, 805 Broughton St.
Morning ceremony: 9:30-11:30 a.m.
Afternoon ceremony: 1:30-3:30 p.m.
850 students will graduate from degree and certificate programs