Executive Team

President – Muzhgan Wahaj 

Screen shot 2013-02-02 at 1.02.39 AMSparked by the passion and encouragement of an incredible high school teacher, Muzhgan began her work in the human rights sphere in her early teens. Her passion for global formulations of human rights is a direct reflection of her personal commitment to ensuring that effective and sustainable development is supported among populations depraved of these inalienable rights. The degree of indifference and lack of awareness that exists about the detriments of popular development strategies must be corrected in order strengthen alternative strategies that accomplish positive change without creating dependency. Among these greater strategies is the growing field of rights media journalism, and it is with great pleasure that Muzhgan has stepped into her role as President of the University of Toronto chapter of JHR, Canada’s leading media development organization.

As President, Muzhgan has spent the past half year working closely with JHR headquarters to restructure and strengthen the chapter at the University of Toronto, one which previously struggled with consistency and recognition. With the start of her final semester at the University of Toronto, she will guide the creative development and organization of the rejuvenated chapter in harmony with the JHR mandate, creating change without creating dependency. She looks forward to working with her talented team of likeminded students to establish the chapter as a safe and open space in the campus community, one which will welcome the talents and ambitions of students from all walks of life. 2013 is the year that JHR will assume its place at the forefront of media development and publication on the University of Toronto campus, and Muzhgan hopes that this will be a small step forward towards empowering our generation to foster positive change and lasting influence.

Muzhgan discovered Journalists for Human Rights in 2012 when searching for a medium through which to explore her journalistic style. She is currently a fourth year student completing her degree in Criminology and History. Her professional background primarily lies in team development, events coordination, creative development, and languages. Prior to joining JHR at the University of Toronto, Muzhgan served as Editor in Chief of the ACCI LOGOS student newspaper and President of the ACCI Sick Kids Foundation chapter. Her publication of an interview with Plan Canada’s George Nozuka and his work against child slavery in Haiti led her to be nominated for the 2008 YMCA Peace Medallion, extended to celebrate youth who help to build peaceful communities.

Vice-President – Ayşegül Karaküçük

Screen shot 2012-12-30 at 1.56.49 AMA senior year student of Political Science and English, Ayşegül’s intuitive passion for human rights existed before she knew what the phrase meant. When she was five, she used to draw pictures of a shelter capable of housing all of the street youth and orphans she saw daily in Kayseri of central Turkey where she grew up. She dreamed of becoming so rich someday that she could make this house a reality: equipping each child with a room of their own, a computer, toys, and food for everyone. That was the dream, and it was there because she felt every child is just as entitled to a good living as one that she enjoyed.

The core vision she had then is not much different from now, but she has come to learn that the world is a much harsher place. Simply wanting to do good, or even to ‘give’ charity to those in need, are not enough. Since the days of those drawings, Aysegul has heard and seen images of human suffering that she still struggles to comprehend or believe. But she is aware that her access to these images is so heavily dependent on her access to media, which is an incredibly powerful tool worth fighting for. That’s what she’s here to do: using her voice and opening her eyes so that she may contribute to the efforts of millions in creating a world tomorrow that is better – and LOUDER, than what we have today. Just keep thinking: even if the difference we can make is a miniscule change in volume, we’ll know we’re doing the right thing. Aysegul hopes to achieve this and more, with this year’s amazing executive team that she feels honoured to work with as Vice President.

Editor in Chief & Web Media Coordinator – Cassandra Dang Nguyen 

IMG_1141Cassandraʼs interest in philanthropy and social justice was sparked at an early age. When she was seven, she accompanied her parents and her sister on a month long trip to Saigon, now Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Though she was too young to fully appreciate the culture and spectacle of Saigon, one image remained with her. A little boy around her age, dressed in brown garments too thin to be considered clothing, walking on sandals long past their prime, hungry, tired and lonely looking, was timidly walking up to pedestrians selling raffle tickets. Though some of those he approached purchased a ticket, several waved him away as if he were a fly – a part of the landscape. It was not rare to see such poverty, and today it is far from obsolete.

A couple of years ago, Cassandraʼs mother and little brother revisited Vietnam, now considered a rapidly growing economic hotspot. When they returned, her mother showed her a picture. In front of a posing and smiling mother and son, a little boy, aged no more than 10 years, wearing thin garments and worn sandals was captured in the frame. His back was turned to the camera, face unseen, while Cassandraʼs brotherʼs face shone with joy. This ignited a flurry of questions: why did this child remind her so much of the child from many years ago? Was this faceless representation a coincidence – a consequence of a single camera’s angle – or an example of the larger degrading representation that is imposed on cash poor people?

As Editor in Chief, Cassandra will work to ensure that those stories which mainstream considers to be ‘unimportant’, will be heard. Her work is part of a continual journey of learning. She will make mistakes on this journey, but she hopes to one day learn how to speak to social injustice with the right amount of criticalness and respect. By providing an outlet for expression, she hopes not to appropriate but to help amplify the voices of marginalized peoples.

Cassandraʼs background is in performance theatre. She is extremely passionate about story telling and the power of stories to give listeners the gift of perspective – the chance to be in someone elseʼs shoes – the opportunity to develop not only sympathy but empathy. Her work will be deeply personal and will strive to make you remember a face – a person. Cassandra has also served as the President for Pragmora Peace Action Team 2012 – 2013 (PPAT UofT), the Youth Coordinator for Gendering Adolescent AIDS Prevention (GAAP), and is a contributor for The Urban Times, Critical Conversations Series.

The Urban Times: http://urbantimes.co/author/cassandranguyen/ // GAAP: http://utgaap.info // Pragmora: http://pragmora.com/PPAT/Utoronto

Assistant Editor in Chief – Jieun Lee 

Screen shot 2012-12-30 at 12.45.48 AMJieun Lee is currently a student of English, Anthropology and Women and Gender Studies. She has been a writer since she could properly hold a pencil, and hopes to someday fulfill the dream of becoming a children’s/young adult novelist, fostering critical thinking and equity education in children. She currently works as the Assistant Editor at Journalists for Human Rights at U of T, and the Vice President of Communications at the U of T chapter for Education Beyond Borders. She is passionate about promoting body positivity and self love, and learning about media literacy education. She enjoys the smell of new books, eating cookies, dancing (not well), and jamming to music that could make her be on the verge of being dangerously hipster.  

VP Campus Affairs – Goldie Poll 

Screen shot 2012-12-30 at 1.08.20 AMGoldie was born on October 26th, 1992, (probably) in Vancouver, British Columbia. Goldie is a third year University of Toronto student, majoring in Political Science and Equity Studies. She has been a part of Journalists for Human Rights since September 2010. She was previously the Vice President of Marketing and is currently the Vice President of Campus Affairs. She thinks JHR is important and awesome because it teaches journalists in oppressed areas how to speak freely and effectively use their platform, rather than doing it for them and reinforcing unequal patriarchal hierarchies. She has written for The Varsity, the University College Gargoyle, the old JHR U of T Blog, and Canculture.com. She is very bad at talking about herself and writing these biographies, and hopes that someone will do it for her next time.

VP Communications – Samantha Preddie

Screen shot 2012-12-30 at 1.57.06 AMSamantha is a student at the University of Toronto. She studies English and Political Science.  Outside of class, she is a meal lead coordinator with Hot Yam! and has been a part of JHR for over a year now.  She has a passion for literature, some of her favourite works being – among countless others – The Portrait of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde, If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things, by Jon McGregor, and, A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.  Samantha’s passion for literature is what inspires her to strive towards becoming an editor.

She also has a passion for animals.  Everything from their biology to their behaviour fascinates her. Philosophy and spirituality are also important to her, and of course human rights!  What attracts Samantha to JHR is their mission to make the most of media by using it as a medium to raise awareness.  Media and free speech are essential freedoms in and of themselves that all should reap the benefit of.  It is a fantastic resource not only for people to gain knowledge about the world around them, but also for others to make their voice heard.

Everyone is given a limited time on this planet, and it’s important to make the most of it.  Do what you love, seek knowledge, pursue your passions and support one another.  Bringing awareness to peoples’ struggles, works to towards creating a world where each person can make the most of their life, and be respected as a valuable member of society.

Samantha wants this organization to be a large part of her dedication towards supporting human rights, especially through methods of free speech and the media which are important to bringing people together to make a difference.

VP Events – Dina Bayoumy 

Screen shot 2012-12-30 at 11.41.37 PMThe Dalai Lama perfectly quotes, “All human beings, whatever their cultural or historical background, suffer when they are intimidated, imprisoned or tortured. We must, therefore, insist on a global consensus, not only on the need to respect human rights worldwide, but also on the definition of these rights … for it is the inherent nature of all human beings to yearn for freedom, equality and dignity, and they have an equal right to achieve that”.

As a member of Journalists for Human Rights, it is believed that young voices will breach borders via the inevitable realms of social media to attain equity worldwide. In a perfect world, human rights are universally and equally attainable. But as a student pursuing a career in Global Health, it becomes inherent to see the world through unpolished lens – the real lens. Therefore, it is one’s responsibility to work through obstacles to strengthen the understanding of human rights, as well as strengthen the voices of those deprived of it. Human justice cannot be achieved without awareness and knowledge, and as an advocate for human rights, it is fundamental to speak about the rights that defend the integrity of being human. Through media campaigns, development in underdeveloped nations is achievable; and through development, freedom is certain.

Twitter: @dbayoumy // LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=207004553&trk=tab_pro

VP External – Riya Dhaliwal 

Screen shot 2012-12-30 at 1.56.59 AMRiya is a fourth year student at the University of Toronto pursuing a double major in International Relations and Media Studies.  She grew up in Vancouver, British Columbia and became involved with the Lower Mainland branch of the Canadian Red Cross during her high school years.  It was this involvement with the Red Cross that inspired Riya to engage in volunteer work. In her final two years of highschool, Riya logged over 300 hours of community service with organizations such as the Stephen Lewis Foundation, Amnesty International and she also organized a conference on human security in the Middle East.
This passion for activism has not faded during Riya’s time at the University of Toronto, where she has been involved with Journalists for Human Rights and also with The Mighty Pen, a Toronto-based organization devoted to grassroots literacy development.

In her spare time Riya enjoys watching and playing soccer, horseback riding, watching re-runs of The West Wing and reading comic books.

Twitter and on Instagram @riya_dh

VP Marketing – Katherine Cheng 

Screen shot 2012-12-30 at 11.40.17 PMKatherine is a student majoring in International Relations and Ethics, Society, and Law. The roots of her decision to pursue this path can be found originating from when she traveled to Cambodia several years ago. Exposed to a perspective that varied so drastically from the one that she was familiar and comfortable with, her understanding of the world and its populations shifted. A reality of daily education and never-ending entertainment now stood in stark contrast to a separate reality of malnourished children and powerless families. As a result, an insatiable hunger to constantly question the world and morality arose. For it is the questions that remain unasked and the answers that stand unchallenged which can be the most dangerous.

VP Outreach – Nejla/Nezhla Yakub

Screen shot 2012-12-30 at 2.02.34 PMNejla is a student majoring in History, double minor in Sociology and Book and Media Studies. Being born in Germany and raised in Bulgaria,  Nejla has witnessed a great deal of inequality. When she was born, her parents were forced to leave Germany and move back to Bulgaria because they did not meet the requirements to apply for German citizenship. Her parents had attempted to leave Bulgaria several times due to the inequality and harsh conditions that Turkish Bulgarians faced. Her parents did not want to raise her and her sister in such a hostile environment, and so they eventually immigrated to Canada.

As a result of being subjected to ethnic discrimination, Nejla grew up with the ambition to raise knowledge for those whose voices have been silenced as a result of human rights violations. She hopes to make a change in her life, as well as the lives of others. Her journey began in the early years of her high school life; during this time,  she volunteered and raised donations for nonprofit organizations. The joy she personally felt from volunteering for such organizations was overwhelming and allowed her to feel like she was contributing to society as a whole. Moreover, volunteering was the stepping-stone of her growing passion for recognizing and addressing the injustices millions of people are faced with on the daily. Essentially, through her words and actions, she aims to become the voice for the millions of people whose voices are continuously silenced.

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