Valentina Briceño-Strocchia is a second-year student in the Master of Global Affairs (MGA) program. Now doing her exchange in Paris, France at Sciences Po, Briceño-Strocchia spent her summer interning at the Embassy of Canada to Argentina and Paraguay in Buenos Aires, where she examined the political relationship between the countries and within the region. She spoke with the Munk School about what attracted her to the MGA program, and how small acts can influence big change.
What brought you to the MGA program?
I was most interested in the MGA program because of the internship, the exchange and the capstone project. I thought It was a pretty amazing combo because I really wanted more professional experience as opposed to theory-based experience. It’s been great. I’ve been exposed to so many new things and got to intern at the embassy here in Argentina, which is the internship I really wanted.
Describe your big ‘a-ha’ moment.
It happened in 2015. I was working in Colombia and had the privilege of helping to organize Professor Muhammad Yunus’ visit to the country. The best part of organizing the visit was that I got to take Professor Yunus to the airport. I was sitting with him at the airport thinking “When will I have another chance to speak to a Nobel Peace Prize winner? I should really take advantage of this moment.” So, I asked him: “You know, the world is really overwhelming and there are a lot of really bad things happening. It’s really hard sometimes not to get discouraged. What would you say to someone who feels ‘small’ in the face of all of this?”
Professor Yunus looked at me and said: “You should tell that person that they’re ‘big enough’. You’re big enough to make a difference. All of these problems are manmade and we can turn them upside down and unmake them.”
That revolutionized my life. It completely shifted things for me because I used to feel very overwhelmed — and sometimes I still do — with so many issues and so many problems. But in that moment, I realized I am big enough. And maybe if everyone else thinks that they’re big enough too, then we can actually change things.
What’s a global issue you’re passionate about and why?
Gender equity — social, political and economic equality for all genders. I think that it’s hard to find a social issue that does not disproportionately affect women, girls and marginalized people. When we forget that that’s part of every single global issue, that’s when we run into really big problems.
That’s why I found the internship I did at the embassy in Argentina so interesting. Part of my job was to evaluate initiatives through the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives and take into consideration whether or not women have been consulted on these projects, whether or not the project impacts women’s equality, whether or not women asked for the project. It was interesting work. It was also cool to meet with women’s groups and other human rights organizations to hear from them about what the human rights context is like in Argentina and what they’re doing.
What impact do you want to make on the world or your local community?
I think in many ways, I’m still figuring that out. I genuinely hope that someone can breathe a little easier because of the work that I do. And I’m learning not to underestimate the power of an “everyday” thing. Meaning I may not reach 3 million people in one day, but I might be able to convince just one person that they can do great things. And that small act has a huge ripple effect. Encouraging people is a really powerful way of generating global change. I’m learning not to underestimate that!
What is your personal philosophy?
I think we’re responsible for the energy that we put out into the world. We choose whether we build people up or if we tear them down. We can choose to ignore other people’s experiences or try to understand, even if they’re very different from our own. And we choose whether we only see problems or whether we think of solutions.