Jothi Shanmugam, a fourth-year student in criminology and peace and conflict studies, is devoted to bringing together communities for change. Through the Young Canadians’ Peace Dialogue, she has worked with Sinhalese, Tamil and Muslim Sri Lankans to promote peace in Sri Lanka. Shanmugan helped write a policy paper on Sri Lankan development and peace initiatives, which she presented last summer in Colombo, Sri Lanka, to government representatives from such countries as Canada, the U.K. and Switzerland.
For her work, Shanmugam earned a Gordon Cressy Student Leadership Award – which was given to 183 graduating U of T students for improving the world around them. She is also this year’s recipient of the Dean’s Student Leadership Award in the Faculty of Arts and Science.
Shanmugam helped create BuildChange in which Sinhalese, Tamil and Muslim students raised $25,000 to build wells in the war-affected northern regions of Sri Lanka.
As part of Students for International Development, Shanmugam spent four months in Maragoli, Kenya, where she ran public-health and HIV-AIDS workshops. Upon learning that the village couldn’t afford to pay for glaucoma and cataract treatments, she started a network between the Sabatia Eye Hospital and Ministry of Health to create “eye camps” – which have provided eye care to more than 1,000 Kenyans.
The Trinity College student was born in Sri Lanka and came to Canada as a refugee when she was seven. Shanmugam grew up with identity issues about being an immigrant, and her curiosity about why her life had to be uprooted led her to peace and conflict studies. “I wanted to learn why conflicts unfold in ways that leave behind animosity and rip communities apart. I had too many unanswered questions about conflict resolution, because it is close to my heart, it’s part of my identity.”