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 Allison Roach Award 2008

Annie BUNTING'83
The Branksome Hall Alumnae Association is delighted to present Annie BUNTING’83 with the Allison Roach Alumna Award.
 
Throughout her career as a lawyer and now professor, Annie BUNTING’83 is committed to making a difference to the lives of women everywhere. Whether in North America or Africa, she has focused her intellect and passion on activism for women’s rights, and global human rights.
 
Annie’s great potential was recognized during Grade 11 at Branksome Hall, when she was encouraged to pursue her education in the focused environment of Pearson College. She studied philosophy and art at the University of Western Ontario, received an LL.B. from Osgoode Hall Law School, and a Master of Laws from the London School of Economics. In 1999, she received a Doctor of Juridical Science from the Faculty of Law, U of T. Over the years, Annie has received numerous fellowships, scholarships and research grants, and has published and spoken internationally on women, law, marriage and human rights.
 
Among the highlights of her career, Annie has:
  • been the only non-African participant at meetings that drafted the Ouagadougou Declaration on Child and Forced Marriage, Africa;
  • been the Visiting Professor at the UN University for Peace in Costa Rica, where she taught a Human Rights, Religion and Gender course in the Master’s of International Law and Human Rights Program;
  • published works on early marriage, Muslim women’s rights and family law, children’s cultural identity and feminist theory.
 
Annie provides counsel to, and runs workshops with, the Canadian judicial body on issues of cultural diversity, beliefs and value systems, enabling our judges to make better decisions on a wide range of cases. Her drive for excellence includes athletics; in 2006, she was one of four women who set a world record in the 4 x 800-meter relay for women over 40.
 
Annie is a constant and giving friend; passionate about her family, her husband, Bruce Ryder, and her sons, Kieran and Luka. Her zest and enthusiasm for life, her compassion for those in need and her intellectual discipline help make our world a better place for women everywhere. Annie is
a woman to watch and an inspiration to all.
 
Excerpts from Annie's acceptance speech
Delivered at the Alumnae Awards Presentation on Sunday, May 25, 2008.
 
"It is a real honour for me to be given the Allison Roach Alumna Award from Branksome Hall. I would like to thank Jenny Ryder for her nomination and for the constant support she gives me – I am lucky to be part of her family. I would also like to thank the Alumnae committee who worked so hard on this weekend and on the award.
 
What is particularly poignant about this award named in Allison Roach’s honour is that I can genuinely say that Miss Roach set me on my international path, though she probably does not remember our encounters as well I do.
Something from that [interview] must have given Miss Roach the impression that I was independent enough to think about going to a United World College and she suggested that I apply. For this encouragement, I am deeply grateful to Miss Roach. For it is was through my 2 years at Lester B. Pearson College of the Pacific, an international (IB) school with 200 students from all over the world, that I developed a commitment for international human rights, cross cultural understanding, and social justice – a passion that has stayed with me 25 years on. It is also a place where I learned a great deal about teaching and learning in a respectful environment. I hope that I put those values into practice in my own work as a professor at York University.
 
My work has primarily focused on international women’s rights and practices that are criticized on the basis of rights but defended on the basis of culture. For example, early marriage is seen as a cultural practice that can be explained and defended by some in communities as integral to culture while others see it as violating women and girls’ rights to consent in marriage … I am concerned with addressing women’s experience of rights violations without reinforcing all too common stereotypes of women who need to be saved/ rescued by others from the “North” or from the “West”.
 
Rather, I try to work for positive social change for women through creating space for a diversity of women’s voices to be heard and for women to articulate their own (sometimes very complex) experiences of poverty, lack of education, lack of access to health care, or violence. Secondly, I believe we have to work in solidarity with grassroots women’s organizations in order to make international human rights a relevant discourse responsive to the needs of women’s lived experience. It is through such partnerships and careful research that we can translate international human rights into action whether it be in Rwanda for women who are survivors of the genocide, for girls and women married very young in northern Nigeria, or for Muslim women experiencing racism in Canada. If we assume that international women’s rights is static and need only be applied from our agencies and our NGOs then it is a project that, I would argue, risks reproducing colonial relations and risks failure.
 
I would like to share with you two vignettes from my work:
 
  • Rights and Democracy asked that I travel to Rwanda in 2000 (not long after the genocide) to meet with partner women’s groups to discuss the prosecution of sexual violence at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) and in courts in Rwanda. Here we listened to stories of their experience during the genocide as well as stigma and living with AIDs in the aftermath. We also met with women’s grassroots groups in Rwanda to discuss strategies to meet the needs of survivors (legal, medical and psycho social needs).
  • Mother’s Day last year Gladys, a woman from Peru, was detained by Canada Immigration for lying on her visa application and then on suspicion of being a terrorist. She had been wrongly convicted and imprisoned as a member of the Shining Path in Peru and spent 8 years in a notorious women’s prison in Peru. Pardoned. Exonerated, she was still detained on entry to Canada with a valid visa. I assisted in getting her released into my custody, found an immigration lawyer to present her and hosted her in our home.
 
Along with my parents who always encouraged me to be an independent thinker, Branksome instilled intellectual curiosity and fostered leadership skills (sub clan chieftain in grade 11).  While it may have been a bit unusual for a girl in 1983 to set her sites on an international human rights career, it is not today – there global opportunities for Branksome graduates. IB program will help in that endeavor, creating cross cultural understanding and fostering a sense of global citizenship."

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