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The determination of Marwa Jabou Bessadok

In the summer of 2020, in the middle of the pandemic, Marwa Jabou Bessadok finally received her master’s degree in Conflict Studies from Saint Paul University. But above and beyond the extraordinary context of that time, it is Marwa’s personal journey that makes her success even more remarkable.

Marwa, who is from Tunisia, arrived in Canada in 2016. She knows that in her home country, people are still undergoing many challenges. Marwa’s parents, who had four daughters, always wanted their children to grow up in a world where equality was central. Marwa was drawn to Saint Paul University’s Conflict Studies program, as she wanted to deepen her knowledge of structural violence against women and understand the links between human behaviours, conflicts and violence. She set a goal for herself: “to make [her] contribution to the resolution and the transformation of conflicts to make the world a more peaceful and more equitable place.”

Marwa working on her studies with baby CélineThe Conflict Studies program was of particular interest to her. According to Marwa, all the courses were relevant and fascinating, but they had their share of challenges, too. At first, coming from a completely different education system, she had a hard time doing all the readings and understanding how to write essays. But with the help of her professors and working sessions at the library, after a few months she was able to read hundreds of pages every week and write her exams, then her essays, as required. In second year, pregnant with her second child, she wondered if she could continue her studies. Work-family-school balance was a triple challenge. Her husband, who was doing an MBA, gave her a lot of support. The couple took turns taking care of their son while the other was at university. “We are very fortunate when we have a spouse who believes in us, in gender equality, and who does everything they can to push us forward,” she says. Her professors also gave her more time to complete her assignments. Marwa received a lot of encouragement and support from them and from Saint Paul University’s administrative staff.

She wrote her exams when she was nine months pregnant and returned to her studies two weeks after the birth of her daughter, as in her mind, nothing should prevent her from achieving her goal – even when, in the middle of winter, she had to have knee surgery. Vowing to finish the semester, she came to class on crutches. To accommodate her, her classes were held in classrooms on the main floor. Clearly, nothing could get in the way of her determination. Her husband and her mom supported her success, and her children were her inspiration. She also found much understanding among her professors and her classmates – all the encouragement needed for teamwork. The feeling that best describes how she feels now that she has her degree would be pride, with a tinge of relief! Those were three very busy years, but as Marwa says: “When you have a dream, you have to hold on to it!”

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