From a young age, Niyonella Kamera has always had an interest in sustainability, yet not in the way you may expect. Her sense of justice has always been strong and has guided her to positions and groups focused on reducing inequalities and increasing equity. Throughout her academic career, Niyonella has participated in extra- and co-curricular activities supporting representation of marginalized voices and contributing to policy to create a more equitable environment at both Ivey and Western.
Niyonella hopes to help expand the conception of sustainability as more than just environmental stewardship and as a commitment to long-term holistic improvement.
What is your personal definition of sustainability?
Sustainability to me means leaving a space better off than I found it so that myself and others can enjoy it well into the future. Most commonly, this encourages me to be conscious of my ecological footprint and limit my consumption. However, my definition also extends beyond environmental impact. Sustainability also applies to ensuring that institutions are better able to support the people they cater to, so that they continue to see long term success. This includes advocating for justice and equity so that future generations can enjoy what the institution has to offer.
What role do you see sustainability playing in your professional career?
In my professional career, I see my personal definition of sustainability as a guide to success, placing great importance on my ability to help implement sustainable practices and thinking into the organizations of which I am a part. Environmental and social conscientiousness will guide my considerations of where to work and which roles to pursue. Environmentally, I will seek to align with organizations that genuinely prioritize climate crisis. Socially, I aim to engage with companies that have a demonstrated commitment to justice and I will continue to further these efforts, extending them to all areas of the company’s scope.
Furthermore, knowing that my understanding of sustainability as a duty to ensure equity is different from traditional conceptions, I expect to be met with some degree of resistance. Organizations are increasingly being held accountable for the various ways they impact society and it can be intimidating for a company to now realize the magnitude of their social responsibility, especially in areas they never expected. As a young woman with optimism and a fresh perspective entering in the workforce, I expect that leading and developing sustainability efforts concerning justice may become central to many of the roles I assume.
What sustainability projects have you been engaged in?
In August 2018, at what I call the beginning of my sustainability journey, I was selected to attend the United Nations Youth Assembly based on my interests in UN Sustainable Development Goals 6 (clean water and sanitation) and 11 (sustainable cities and communities). Upon meeting youth from around the globe, this conference expanded my conceptions of what sustainability means, shifting my focus to goals 10 (reduced inequalities) and 16 (peace, justice, and strong institutions).
Accordingly, for the next two years, I committed to personal education on global inequalities through the international relations program. Moreover, through my participation as a department-representative on the Social Science Students’ Council, helped advocate for a re-structuring of the political science program to help deepen students’ knowledge of domestic and international inequality.
Throughout my HBA 1 year, I worked part time as a research intern with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees for an upcoming publication concerning trends in forced displacement and refugee movements. This publication will be used as a resource for both political scholars and the average person to understand the plight of refugees and how communities and governments can continue to protect them and ensure peace in conflict areas.