In my first year of university, I realized that institutional roles can create barriers that dehumanize people’s interactions. Through a prolonged war between the students and an overworked and underpaid cafeteria staff in my residence, I blindly tried to rally students and demand better treatment. This is when I met Warren Nilsson who taught me a very important lesson in conflict resolution: understand the other side’s perspective. Instead of aggravating the conflict and widening the resolution gap, I gave them a collectively signed thank you card and acknowledged their grievances. The experiment worked, we all hugged, and some cried. It was the first experience I had with breaking an institutional barrier, and it was such a rush that I remember thinking “I can now die happy”.
Shortly after this burst of euphoria, I started seeing all kinds of barriers that prevented groups from engaging with outsiders. I spent the rest of my studies at McGill grappling with ways to eliminate these barriers. After graduation, I interned with Coady International Institute, and worked with a farmer’s association in the Caribbean. Although this placement deepened understanding of the complexity that comes with working in between cultural, political, and socio-economic barriers, I decided to add another lens to my perception before continuing on my quest.
I am starting a law degree at the University of Hawaii, where I hope to concentrate on native and environmental law.
I can be reached at sadaf.kashfi[at]gmail.com