Ruvimbo Chidziva
Master of Global Affairs, Munk School

Celebrating our grads: Ruvimbo Chidziva

June 16, 2021
by: Adrienne Harry

Master of Global Affairs (MGA) grad Ruvimbo Chidziva has always wanted to help others. Inspired by her parents, both surgeons who always stressed the importance of investing in the community, Chidziva knew she wanted a career path that would help her make meaningful change in the world. It’s what sparked her interest in disability and development work and ultimately, led her to the Munk School from her home Zimbabwe. “Before I came to the Munk School, I worked as a junior programs officer at Christian Blind Mission, a disability and development NGO, for three years. I loved the work that we were doing, but eventually, I wanted more than to implement policies designed by people who don’t always have an understanding of my country,” says Chidziva. “I wanted a seat at a bigger table. That’s was drew me to the MGA program.”

Chidziva left her job at Christian Blind Mission in late 2019 and came to Canada in pursuit of the “truly global degree” that the MGA program has to offer. She says that, as someone who likes plans and structure, readjusting to student life four years after undergrad and settling into a new country were challenges. But the pandemic threw curve balls that even her most well-crafted plans couldn’t anticipate. Travel restrictions meant making tough decisions about where to ride out the worst of the pandemic — go to Zimbabwe and be closer to family? Or stay in Canada and remain closer to school? She also had to adjust to online learning and try to keep student morale high as a member of the Master of Global Affairs Student Association (MGASA). “I can’t understate how tough it’s been. But the quality of my education didn’t suffer,” says Chidziva. “I think the Munk School did a good job of trying to adjust to the pandemic. I felt like the classes I took in the second year were fantastic,” she says.

Chidziva is also a founding member and co-President of the Munk School Black Students Association (MSBSA) who, in just one year, have helped to establish the Anti-Black Racism Action Table and the Black Diaspora Excellence Scholarship. “Our aim is to provide a platform for Black students,” says Chidziva. “We encourage professional development, leadership opportunities for Black students and find ways to ensure the School is more inclusive of Black students and has supports in place to facilitate their aspirations.  We want to create an open dialogue with the School and also provide a safe space for Black students.”

Ruvimbo Chidziva at the Munk SchoolThough Chidziva is candid about the difficult year she’s had, she remembers much of her academic career at the Munk School with fondness. In Spring 2020, for instance, she had a chance to shadow the Honourable Wanda Thomas Bernard in Ottawa during Women in House, a program aimed at increasing female representation in government by inviting women from U of T for a day of job shadowing at Parliament Hill. Chidziva says meeting the senator was the highlight of her trip. “Spending the day with her was interesting for me because I do a lot of work around disability and development and she works around a lot of issues of inclusion. I’m lucky I was able to get to Ottawa just before the pandemic.”

Chidziva also had a chance to intern at the International Center for Tax and Development (ICTD). She provided research assistance for different projects in the ICTD’s tax and civil society programme. Coming from a country which relies heavily on donor aid, Chidziva has always thought about “the ways that countries can become self-sufficient without relying on aid”. Equitable and efficient tax systems are the answer,” says Chidziva. “I initially came into the MGA program thinking ‘I’m not a researcher, that’s why I’m doing a professional degree.’ But this internship taught me the importance of policymaking that is informed by academic research.”

After graduation, Chidziva hopes to carry on in the development field and focus her work on human rights and inclusion. And although her time in the MGA program didn’t go exactly as she planned, she says the challenges only reinforced the resilience of this year’s graduating class. “As cliché as it sounds, I think having survived this year has really proven to us that we can survive anything. I have no doubt that the Class of 2021, more than any other, is going to achieve great things.”