The University of Ottawa educates tomorrow’s leaders, as the list of Bernard Grandmaître award recipients shows. Every year, these awards honour the achievements of people or organizations who’ve made an impact on the promotion and development of the francophone community in Ottawa. This year, four of the eight recipients are uOttawa alumni. Ama Ouattara (BA ’18) was named young leader of the year, Éric Barrette (BSocSc ’12) educational figure of the year, Solange Fortin (BA ’84) citizen of the year and Trèva Cousineau (BSc ’59) winner of this year’s Bernard Grandmaître award itself.
As we continue to mark the Mois de la francophonie, we present the story of Ama Ouattara, winner of the young leader’s award, a proud Gee-Gee still involved in our campus community. In addition to the young leader’s award, she also received the Relève ON award for inclusive leadership in 2021 and a Welcoming Ottawa Ambassadors Award from the city of Ottawa in 2018. Ama was also one of Canada International Black Women Excellence’s 2019 Top 100 Black Women to Watch.
With an honours degree in communication, Ama is now a coordinator of community engagement programs at the University of Ottawa.
Becoming a francophone activist
Ama was her faculty representative on the SFUO board, as well as VP university affairs for the Communication Students’ Association. She also was involved in the student food bank and other organizations such as the People’s Republic of Delicious. She says that her desire to get involved took shape through a reappropriation of the French language.
“I come from a former French colony and French arrived in my country through violence. Still, it’s part of my heritage. It’s what I do with it that determines my identity.”
Her francophone activism began through the Regroupement étudiant franco-ontarien, a provincial student organization. “I felt comfortable very quickly. They didn’t question my origins. For them, you could very well come from Sudbury or Timmins and speak French.” Ama realized that French wasn’t based on geographical space or skin colour. So she offered her talents to Réseau Ontario, a French-language arts network, and produced a francophone cross-Canada tour. She then joined the Alliance des producteurs francophones du Canada, an arts industry development group.
Now a member of the uOttawa community engagement team, Ama is also a committed artist and leads various projects involving francophone communities. As well, she’s the volunteer host of the community participation feature “T’es-tu?” on Unique FM.
Ama’s dedication truly conveys the dynamic francophone presence at uOttawa, while reminding us of the efforts of all those committed to living in French here.