Zachary Matthews | 2022 Recipient

The 2022 KLH Scholarship has been awarded to Zachary Matthews. Below is his submission essay published with permission:

My beginnings in the world of peacebuilding, human rights and peace studies were unorthodox to say the least. After growing up in small and isolated towns in Northern Ontario and Alberta, I had left with a strong conviction and belief in community and service. I had seen the harms of poverty and violence within my communities first hand and most clearly the effects of colonialism and intergenerational trauma on indigenous peoples within my community. The experiences pushed me into my academic career.

Quickly after beginning my studies, I had locked onto issues of human rights on a global scale. In my second year of study, I began with the statelessness, genocide and mass migration of the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.

I pivoted my area of study from South-East Asia into Great Lakes Africa regarding issues of conflict, genocide, and post-genocide reconstruction. This culminated in my participation in an experimental learning course in Rwanda in early 2020, seeing first-hand the efforts of the Rwandan government, local communities, foreign governments and civil society organizations on creating a health and resilient post-genocide society for all. This course in Rwanda viscerally reminded me of the importance of violence prevention and peacebuilding, and gave me an understanding of the Rwandan word and concept of ubumuntu (to be human). Following my time in Rwanda, I wrote an essay exploring the dynamics of masculinity within the genocide, both for perpetrators and victims, and its effects in the post-genocide environment. The Rwandan genocide revealed to the international community (alongside the atrocities of Yugoslavia) the factors of gender-based violence in conflict and genocide. However, the place of men was seldom discussed, despite facing disproportionate genocidal killing that left Rwanda demographically imbalanced between men and women after the genocide. My paper, which sought to understand the factors which caused such disproportionality and how Rwandan society dealt with the effects, was recognized in the 2020 Global Undergraduate Awards and go on to the basis of my studies in graduate school.

After completing my undergraduate studies, I continued in political science, pursuing further interdisciplinary specialization in Transitional Justice and Post-Conflict studies. This specialization included coursework on genocide, critical theory (with a focus on decoloniality, post-colonialism, and settler-colonialism), and the field and practice of transitional justice. I am currently writing on the effects of masculinity, peacebuilding, and Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) programs in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda. I will then be continued my Master’s in Peace and Conflict Studies at Conrad Grebel College at the University of Waterloo. Here, I intend to building upon my knowledge and skills in more practical and hands-on terms, with direct education in conflict analysis, political economy and development, civil society development and conflict resolution.

With the same spirit of service and community imbued in me by my upbringing, I am to synergize my upbringing and experience into an impactful and meaningful career in peacebuilding and to foster ubumuntu at home and abroad. Within my studies of masculinity in genocide and conflict, I wish to apply my knowledge in the prevention of child soldiery, especially in relation to adolescent boys and young men, who are often themselves in situations of precarity before their participation (both forced and voluntary) in armed groups. Moreover, I hope to apply my education to building better conflict prevention and response mechanisms for national agencies, international organizations, non-governmental organization, research institutions, and civil society organizations. Through peacebuilding, I hope to contribute to building resilient communities that may never return to violence, and to break down the barriers which cause violence in the first place.