Day in the Life: Moussa Magassa

- Tara Sharpe

A poster on the office door of UVic Human Rights Education Advisor Moussa Magassa features a photo of a ring of children, their feet forming a circle of upraised soles. Below the touching image is a quote from Desmond Tutu including the line, “I am human because I belong.”

The poster is meant to reflect “the African concept of Ubuntu, that people are people because of other people,” explains Magassa who, while carefully detailing his role on campus in a recent interview with The Ring, also described the circumstances of the photo: a group of children were asked to compete against each other for a meagre amount of sweets; instead they turned their backs on the food and joined ankle to ankle to play a game that included all of them.

“Inclusion doesn’t #8707; it is created and by all of us in a spirit of cooperation,” Magassa adds.

Creating inclusion

In his role at UVic, Magassa works to help create fair and inclusive work and study environments, as well as increase diversity; enhance understanding of and commitment to the university’s human rights and equity goals, as well as preventing and addressing discrimination and harassment; and to provide information, advice and training to the university community.

He says his focus is two-fold: he also “acts as a conduit for anticipating and identifying potential campus human rights and social justice issues in order to promote a university culture that values diversity and embraces the accompanying change.”

“I try to engage people in reflecting on inclusion and to encourage them to think about issues of power and privilege. I also help us deconstruct what might be called ‘normal’” – or in his words, “powerful unexamined ideas.”

A witness to resilience

What initially attracted Magassa to UVic was the size of the institution and its location on the west coast, but also the challenge that came with the new position created in August 2007 within UVic’s Department of Human Rights and Equity.

He says one of the most satisfying aspects of his job is “seeing the goodness every day in people and their willingness to question their attitudes—and also, witnessing resilience. It’s amazing what I see.”

He assists twice a year during formal orientations of new staff, teaches courses in various departments at UVic and presents an average of 50 workshops every year in classrooms, for units and at UVic conferences. In addition, he is occasionally called upon to assist with human-resources related issues, where he provides informal conflict resolution.

Peacebuilding, conflict resolution and deep commitments

Before emigrating from Johannesburg to Vancouver and studying for an MA in Human Security and Peacebuilding at Royal Roads University, he earned a bachelor’s honours degree in conflict resolution and peace studies in South Africa and worked in the field of demilitarization and peace education in the post-Apartheid country for five years. He is currently working on an interdisciplinary PhD at UVic.

Magassa remains deeply committed to capacity-building projects in Africa and returns as often as possible to his birthplace in northeastern Senegal. His village is small (approximately 3,000 to 5,000 people) and his family comes from “a very, very old tribe that goes all the way back to Egypt and the time of the Pharaohs.”

For 20 years, no matter where he has been, Magassa has sent home a remittance. “This is very important for me to say, I am someone who wants to always remember that I am who I am today thanks to my family and all the people who have supported and nurtured me all along my life. Being a human being, this is what I always want to remember and share with others. One way to do this is to always share with my family and anyone else.”

Another image—this time a poster graphic for UVic's human rights and equity department—spells out the word “inclusion” using the forms of actual UVic employees leaning against each other.

Like the photo on his door capturing one moment for a group of children, the word on the UVic poster marks the shape of a future that Magassa is helping to create.

More information about EQHR at UVic

Visit for more info on policies, resources, educational workshops and volunteer opportunities offered through UVic's Department of Human Rights and Equity.

The UVic Human Rights Education Volunteers also has a Facebook page, with details about the student-involved program.


In this story

Keywords: day in the life, alumni, diversity, human rights, interdisciplinary

People: Moussa Magassa

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