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Diversity Scholarship recipient Keza Uwitonze talks about diversity

A young Black woman and a white man in a suit pose with a certificateKeza Uwitonze received one of CHF Canada’s Manitoba Diversity Scholarships in 2015. She lives with her family at Carpathia Co-op in Winnipeg.

CHF Canada’s Diversity Scholarships are available to young people who are actively promoting diversity in their communities and who live in a CHF Canada member housing co-op in Manitoba, Southwestern Ontario, or Nova Scotia. Applications for the 2019 scholarship will be available November 1.  Diversity Scholarships are also available in other areas through regional co-operative housing federations.

We spoke with Keza about the difference that the Diversity Scholarship made in her life, and what diversity means to her.

What does diversity mean to you?

To me diversity means inclusivity. It’s important that people from all demographics feel that they can be included in their community, because that fosters a feeling of importance in themselves, where they can see how beneficial their presence is to their community.

A lot of times when people think of diversity, the conversation starts and ends with race and sexuality, but we need to broaden our understanding of what it means to be diverse if we find ourselves excluding transgender or non-binary individuals, or ignoring the accessibility needs for people in wheelchairs, or ignoring conversations around mental health. All of these factors need to be discussed because when we ignore these topics, the people who are left to the wayside feel as though their society doesn’t care about their well-being.

So I think that any privilege that someone may have (be that whiteness, straightness, maleness, etc.) should be used to push diversity in their community and let those voices be heard.

What has your experience of living in a housing co-op been like?

My family and I have been here for five years now and it still feels very welcoming! What’s special about co-op housing is the community here and that members are empowered to lead and support their community through the different elections that are held. Democracy gives each of us a feeling of importance in a more intimately local way.

How did you find out about, and decide to apply for, the diversity scholarship?

In my senior year of school, I was really proactive in looking for scholarships because I knew that I wouldn’t be able to afford a university education without one.

How did receiving the diversity scholarship affect your life? 

Receiving the diversity scholarship helped me get my undergraduate degree at the University of Manitoba hassle free. It was very liberating to know that most of my financial worries were taken care of and that I could study without feeling pressured to work as well.

What program have you been doing in school, and how has your school experience been? 

I just recently (this past June) got my undergraduate degree in English with a minor in Psychology. What I regret about my time at university is that I was so focused on being a good student that I ignored the opportunity to build another community at school. So in the near future when I go back to university to continue on in my studies, I want to be a part of the thriving school activities as well.

The application for CHF Canada’s Diversity Scholarships will be posted soon. Check out our website for more information on the scholarships.