They may have only embarked on their post-secondary careers, but already, a renowned Zimbabwean human rights lawyer has given Carleton University students their first task.

“I want each one of you to ask yourself — why have you chosen what you have chosen, and what will you do with it?” Beatrice Mtetwa told more than 4,000 first-year students at Wednesday’s new student convocation ceremony.

“Where will it take you? To whom do you want to make a difference? Your family? Your community? Your country?”


Through her work, Mtetwa has defended press freedom in Zimbabwe despite repeated reprisals against her, and was recently named as the 2009 recipient of the Ludovic-Trarieux International Human Rights Prize, making her the first African since Nelson Mandela to be awarded the honour.

While initially, she said she “had no idea what it meant to be a lawyer,” she knew “the minute I was in a courtroom that I had chosen the right profession,” she said.

“It was through my practice as a lawyer that I realized I could make a difference in the world. University education is a tool, not only to make a difference to yourself, but to others.”

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