Premier Tours Mata Gujri Memorial Library And Learning Centre In India

L to R: UWinnipeg representatives Kuljit Bhathal and Terry Duguid, along with Premier Greg Selinger (centre) present books from Manitoba authors to young women at the Mata Gujri Memorial Library and Learning Centre in Bhanohar.

BHANOHAR, India — Premier Greg Selinger attended the Mata Gujri Memorial Library and Learning Centre in Bhanohar village yesterday where he provided a selection of books about Manitoba and Canada.

This contribution to the library, on behalf of the province, kick starts the latest phase of a partnership between the University of Winnipeg, World Literacy Canada, Ventura Custom Homes and the village to support children’s literacy and young women’s education in India. The new facility will be open to individuals of all economic strata, particularly young women, who are attending schools in the immediate Bhanohar area of the Punjab region.

“This library establishes a vital educational resource for young women and girls in the Punjab, and promises to be a touchstone for ongoing initiatives that are bringing our communities closer together,” said Selinger. “This partnership will strengthen our connections with India as more young women look to Manitoba as a great place to continue their education.”

The creation of the Mata Gujri Memorial Library and Learning Centre was initially made possible by a donation of $70,000 in 2010 by Cliff Penner, president and owner of Ventura Custom Homes to the University of Winnipeg and symbolizes the university’s desire to strengthen ties with India. Penner has made an additional contribution of $50,000 to the centre’s operations and programming, and is an ongoing supporter of local and international communities, making regular donations to rural sports groups in India, to sports and cultural programs based in Winnipeg, and to academic scholarships for students.

UWinnipeg has recently partnered with World Literacy Canada (WLC) to manage the facility’s operations and programming, which will include literacy classes, skills training and personal development such as health and nutrition. Headquartered in Toronto, WLC has more than 50 years experience administering literacy-based projects in India and Nepal, focused on reducing poverty and advancing the social and economic opportunities for the populations they serve. Guidance and oversight to the Bhanohar project will be provided by a Board of Directors consisting of UWinnipeg, WLC, Ventura Custom Homes and the Mata Gujri Memorial Library and Learning Centre Trust.

“This is a truly inspiring example of how local determination can have a positive global impact. It is a uniquely Manitoban effort to help children — especially girls — in India achieve literacy and empowerment in one small village. We are providing tools to help them achieve human rights, security and success, which will enhance their lives in a very real way,” said Dr. Lloyd Axworthy, president and vice-chancellor of UWinnipeg.

There are currently eight young women from Bhanohar studying at UWinnipeg, a trend the University aims to further strengthen through the centre. In addition to supporting literacy and education of village youth, the university anticipates the centre will serve as a field site for the UWinnipeg faculty of education, masters in development practice program, and Global College students, as well as for students enrolled in International Development Studies (via Menno Simons College).

Sukhjot Bhathal, who has been studying biopsychology at UWinnipeg since 2011, believes the new centre will provide an important opportunity for the village and its young women. “When I was in school there, I wasn’t taught how to do assignments on computers the way we do them here. It will be good for students to learn how to read, write and do research papers. They will have better communication skills, which will give them the confidence they need to talk to people and to improve their lives.”

The province’s literary donation begins a fundraising thrust to help furnish the new library with books and digital content. A selection of books written by Manitoba children’s authors was also donated by the University of Winnipeg. World Literacy Canada contributed other books and educational resources. UWinnipeg is planning a public event in early March to increase awareness of women’s literacy issues in India and to raise at least $70,000 in support of ongoing educational provisions for the centre.

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Kevin Rosen, Director, Marketing and Communications,
The University of Winnipeg, 204 786 9381,

Matt Williamson, Press Secretary, Cabinet Communications,
Government of Manitoba, 204-945-1494

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