News and Articles

McGill Student Essays 2016

mcgill class photo 2016
March 18, 2017

The students featured here were part of Professor Kim Samuel’s international development seminar entitled, Lessons of Community and Compassion: Overcoming Social Isolation and Building Social Connectedness Through Policy and Program Development at McGill University, Montreal from September to December 2016. The interdisciplinary 400-level seminar course was the first of its kind and explored the concepts of isolation and connectedness on various levels.

Ana Sofia Hibon

In her essay, Building Civic Participation and Increasing Social Connectedness through Human-Rights-Based Approaches, Ana Sofia Hibon argues that civil participation programs must draw on rights-based approaches in order to enable citizens to effectively hold their governments and civil institutions accountable. Underpinning this argument are assertions that “civic participation and empowerment are pre-conditions for the continuance of all human rights,” and that “social connectedness is a means of increasing the quality and quantity of civic participation.”

She analyzes the use of human rights-based approaches as applied in two development case studies: the prevention and monitoring of domestic sexual violence against female teenagers in the Madre de Dios region in Peru; and a social accountability initiative for transparent public infrastructure spending in the province of Abra in the Philippines.

Celine Thomas

In her essay, Overcoming Social Isolation of Older People in India, Celine Thomas argues that India’s changing family and social structures have made the country’s seniors more vulnerable to social isolation. India is home to one-eighth of the world’s population over 60. This amounts to approximately 98 million elderly people, with that number expected to rise to 240 million by 2050. While the majority of this population still live with their adult children in multi-generational homes, as is customary, the rising employment of women and migratory work patterns have made it more difficult for families to care for their elders.

However, Celine points out that India lacks a comprehensive social welfare system to support its poor and middle-income seniors, or coherent national policies that address the country’s growing ageing population and shifting family living patterns. Celine, therefore, argues that the Indian government should provide more support for old age residences, pension plans, and non-governmental programs that support the country’s older population.

Claire Chauvel

In her essay, Pathways to Reducing Dalit and Scheduled Tribes’ Social Isolation in India, Claire Chauvel argues that the ongoing discrimination against, and exclusion of, India’s lower castes must be overcome through a multi-faceted approach. This could include initiatives such as “appropriate legislation, enforcement, affirmative action, awareness campaigns, community movements, education, and literature.” Efforts like these would help mitigate the social isolation experienced by as many as 300 million lower caste Indians, as well as enhance the level of social connectedness and productivity in Indian society.

Emma Harries

In her essay, Social Isolation and its Relationship to the Urban Environment, Emma Harries argues that the social isolation experienced by vulnerable individuals in cities can be overcome through human-centred, inclusive urban planning. As she points out, the rapid urbanization we’re seeing around the world creates many development opportunities, but is also linked to poverty, environmental degradation and other social challenges.

Emma concludes by advocating for the replication of urban development policies and programs that have successfully increased social connectedness. For example, she supports the expansion of urban green spaces, such as parks and pedestrian zones, which generally encourage people to congregate. Emma also highlights the examples of Stockholm, Berlin, and Vancouver, which have gone to great lengths to remodel public spaces and infrastructure to improve accessibility and build inclusive communities.

Jeremy Monk

In his essay, Inclusive Education and the Global Development Agenda: Promoting Social Connectedness for Children with Disabilities, Jeremy Monk argues that national and local governments should ensure children with intellectual and physical disabilities have access to quality education through inclusive schools. These schools, he writes, provide opportunities for children with disabilities to build bonds with children without disabilities, thereby reducing the social isolation and inequality they commonly experience.

Jeremy provides several policy recommendations to help children with disabilities thrive and build social connectedness in schools. These include encouraging international organizations to work with local institutions to promote inclusive education, enhancing educator training and “buy-in”, and adopting inclusive education as early as at the pre-school level.

Jessica Farber

In her essay, Social Isolation and Climate Change: An Inextricable Bind, Jessica Farber argues that, in order to achieve the Paris Climate Agreement targets and Sustainable Development Goals, marginalized populations already affected by climate change must be consulted in policy and program development, and be empowered to serve as agents of change in their own communities. She adds that these steps will not only help mitigate the effects of climate change, but will also build social connectedness.