CMU alumna works for gender equality in practicum turned career
Ennet Bera hadn't even donned her graduation cap yet when she got her first job in the non-profit sector.
Bera (CMU '19) graduated with a Master of Arts in Peacebuilding and Collaborative Development. She is program assistant for the Fund for Innovation and Transformation (FIT), which operates through the Manitoba Council for International Cooperation in Winnipeg.
The 29-year-old began working for the organization as a practicum student, in the role of innovation intern, just as FIT was launching. Immediately after completing her placement in April 2019, she was hired for her current position.
FIT supports Canadian small and medium-sized organizations that strive to advance gender equality and development in the global south by working with local partners in the countries where they're initiating projects.
"I'm passionate about that kind of work because I believe that it's about time that we are all at a level playing field in the world," says Bera, who is from Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. "Women do a lot of work but sometimes they are not recognized for it or they face a lot of barriers to actually meeting their goals or to living a better life."
She says FIT not only helps women and girls realize their full potential, but also educates men and includes them in the process, "because there's no way you can have gender equality without involving men."
Organizations working with FIT receive $150K–$250K in funding from Global Affairs Canada over a period of 6–15 months, which empowers them to think creatively, test solutions, fail, adapt, and succeed. FIT will fund around 50–70 initiatives through the project's five-year run.
No two days at the office look the same for Bera, who says the variety of her work for the organization is part of what makes the job fun. She assists with managing FIT's website, database system, and online application platform. She tracks expenses, prepares presentations, and supports program officers, helping them stay on track with their tasks and reports.
The job exceeded her expectations: "There's a lot more responsibility than I had anticipated, which is actually good, I like that." But her position has a lot of flexibility, "which is really great because then there's room for me to learn and to grow," she says.
Bera's CMU classes in International Development Studies (IDS) and project management helped prepare a foundation from which she could flourish. But she wasn't always interested in this field of study.
Prior to her life in Canada, Bera completed a Bachelor of Science Honours degree in Sports Science and Coaching and did research work in nutrition. She taught physical education in Bulawayo and later also in Quakertown, Pennsylvania with Mennonite Central Committee's International Volunteer Exchange Program (IVEP). It was during her year on IVEP that she became interested in IDS and connected with CMU, while in Winnipeg for one of the program's conferences.
Bera's work isn't necessarily too far of a stretch from her background in athletics, though. "When you're coaching, you have to know how to communicate with people. In the same sense now... I need to know how to communicate with my team as I'm trying to manage and see where different tasks are at, and where I can help people out," she says. In a much more literal sense, she has been leading her coworkers in online lunchtime workouts to encourage physical and mental health during the pandemic.
Bera started at FIT when the team still consisted of only two directors. She says it has been exciting to be part of the process and see the project develop from the ground up, now operating with almost a dozen staff. She's looking forward to seeing it through its five-year run.