Earlier this week, on International Women’s Day (IWD) in Toronto, an honour was bestowed on a number of women, recognizing their work within various communities.
The women from Canada and some East African countries have over the years worked to improve the lives of women and children both here and in Africa.
In various ways, these women put a spotlight on and try to tackle their communities’ most pressing problems including poverty alleviation, human rights, education, HIV/AIDS eradication, social justice, housing, farming, land title deeds for widows, healthy living, providing sanitary towels to poor girls and assistance to people suffering from mental health issues among other societal issues.
The initiative to honour these women was conceived and championed by Flora Igoki Terah, Ambassador for Shelter Box Canada, then developed and hosted by Elevations Cooperative Inc.
This inaugural event brought together champions of community development, and it was clear throughout the evening, that this was a group that cares strongly about their communities. The evening effortlessly morphed into a rallying call to arms for everyone to do their part to improve the life of someone else.
The 2016 recipients for the “IWD Exceptional Women Leaders Awards” are: Joyce Essendi, Lapwan Wong-Essendi, Josephine Hitimana, Rev. Jean Henry, Rev. Dr. Florence Juma, Bernadette Njeri Kariuki, Ilana Landsberg-Lewis, Dr. Ebby Madera, Zipporah Malemo, Rev. Elivered Mulongo, Allyce B. Mutungi, Irene Njoroge-Maina, Felississima Mwambarangwe, Maryanne Obwaka, Fiona Sampson, Eunice Wahome, Dr. Edith Wambayi, Esther Wambui and Professor Njoki Nathani Wane.
All speeches – from the MC Bhoke Nyerere, opening (Flora Igoki), guests (Jethro Odanga & Pauline Mwangi), keynote (Professor Njoki Wane) and closing (Pr. Jairo Essendi) – strongly encouraged and challenged members of the African Diaspora to be intentional about creating a positive legacy wherever they live.
Takeaway summary from the speakers:
– Find your calling or talent and nurture it.
– Dare to dream and let that dream drive you to become bigger.
– The road to empowerment involves trust in God, self believe, a compelling vision and focus.
– Success includes taking responsibility and respecting yourself and others.
– Be your sister’s keeper.
– Do not believe the myth that women are divided and only pull each other down. Remember that women are often the glue that binds together families and communities.
– Women are inherent supporters of life and should advocate for harmony in the community.
– It helps women to work as a cooperative; pull together, unite, empower each other.
– Women should share knowledge and ideas to develop better, faster and stronger.
– Women can be united by realities and values; be a voice for and accountable to each other.
– Practise seeing others in the same kind light you see yourself.
– We can only grow as a community if we help others rise with us (A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle – Fr. James Keller).
– As a community, don’t run by rumours. Instead, unite for good causes and forsake forces that work to tear apart.
-Above all (personal note) remember that everyday courage has few witnesses so look for the unnoticed women, who no one beats drums for and encourage them.
Utamaduni Performers took us on a traditional dancing & drumming safari while the Van Rosi Band added flavour & fun to the evening with their dynamic and engaging musical mix of zilizopendwa (oldies).
~By Esther “Essie” Wambui for Wakenya Canada