Lauryn Oates

Human Rights Activist, Champion of Education for Women in Conflict Zones, Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal Recipient

Lauryn Oates

 Lauryn Oates is a women’s human rights activist focused education in conflict zones.

It was in 1996 that, at age 14, Lauryn read a newspaper article describing the new regime in Afghanistan called the Taliban, and their treatment of women and girls. She wrote up a petition demanding that the world respond to the Taliban’s misogynist policies, and has continued this work ever since, working in close partnership with a variety of Afghan women’s organizations and international charities.

Lauryn is currently Programs Director with Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan, managing education projects including teacher training, village libraries, literacy classes, schools and training programs, and is the founder of the Darakht-e Danesh Digital Library, a repository of open educational resources in languages spoken in Afghanistan.

She did her doctoral research in northern Uganda, working with teachers there to create local language educational materials for their classrooms through digital technology.

Lauryn is a fierce proponent of the universalism of human rights, and frequently speaks out for global citizenship in the Canadian and international media. She is the recipient of several awards and distinctions, including a Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal awarded by the province of BC.

In 2008, The Globe & Mail named Lauryn as the first of Ten Canadians to Watch in 2009. She holds a BA in international development (McGill University), an MA in human security (Royal Roads University) and a PhD in language and literacy education (University of British Columbia). She has taught graduate students at the School of Humanitarian Studies at Royal Roads University since 2014.

Please contact us for more information or to book Lauryn Oates for your next event.

  1. The Right to Read

    This presentation is about the power of education to transform individuals, their communities, and ultimately, societies. From the magic inherent in the moment when a child learns to read to the power of literature to bring hope during the darkest moments in our history, Lauryn delivers an enthusiastic ode to the written word, and in particular, to the pivotal role of teachers in igniting young minds. Drawing from her work advancing education in Afghanistan, she shares insights that ring true in the mud classrooms of rural Central Asia as much as in the modern classrooms of the industrialized world. She makes the case that human capital is what drives societies and economies forward, and is what gives us the tools to solve seemingly insurmountable challenges, and it is for this reason that teachers carry the weight of the world on their shoulders. In the milieu where Lauryn works, this duty can be a deadly one, and accounts of the bravery of students, teachers and parents committed to learning, under perilous circumstances, strikingly attest to this. Invested with the extraordinary responsibility of preparing the generation that will inherit a world marred in conflict, hostility and inequalities, good teaching has the power to save lives, revolutionize thinking, and even to end wars.

  2. The World is My Backyard

    Lauryn had the unique experience of stepping onto the tarmac of Kabul International Airport when barely out of her teens, and discovering for herself a land that has long been both romanticized and acutely misunderstood by outsiders. In the years that she has since spent ‘commuting’ between Canada’s sleepy west coast and the stirring deserts and mountains of the depths of Central Asia, Lauryn found a people closer to us than we might expect. A witness to a decade of dramatic social change in Afghanistan as well as an unfinished struggle for women’s rights and for peace, she found that the values we so often espouse as our own—good governance, the pursuit of knowledge, human rights—are facing their most momentous battle yet, in classrooms and polling stations in a country thousands of miles away. With an emphasis on our shared humanity, Lauryn challenges complacency in the face of these battles, taking aim at our own tribal thinking. She incites us to think of the world as our own backyard, and to confront injustices whenever and where ever they occur on our watch.

  3. In Witness of the Pain of Others

    On a daily basis we are affronted with news of pain and suffering, near and far. As aspiring global citizens, how do we respond in a way that is ethical and compassionate? This presentation is about how we practice empathy and courage in our daily lives, in navigating a world complicated by inequalities, poverty, and oppression. Lauryn will draw from her many years working in conflict zones as a human rights defender and an advocate for the rights of women, and how her experiences in both places like Afghanistan and back home in Canada helped sharpen a conviction that we must do a better job defining and then defending the values we stand for, even when it is hard to do so. Turning to historical precedent, she demonstrates how we have in the past managed to challenge injustices, and topple unjust institutions and regimes. From the role of individual ‘positive deviants’, to the astounding promise evident in the empowerment of women and girls, she gives us hope through stories of transformative social change underway in the most unlikely of spots, in bringing forth a message that is ultimately one of hope, but also an urgent call to action.

I couldn't have asked for a better or more impactful presentation than the one you delivered.
Colin W. Reichle
Edmonton Commonwealth Society
The audience feedback received has been excellent. The personal experiences you shared brought today’s Afghanistan into much clearer focus for our members. Your stories of the progress and determination of the Afghanpeople, despite the injustices and the obstacles yet to be overcome, were most enlightening and encouraging.
Dale Bent
Elder College Board of Management

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