As Executive director of Changing Together ... A Centre for Immigrant Women, Sonia Bitar uses her position of leadership to help immigrant women make the transition to Canadian society. For nine years she has devoted her time to helping immigrant women through mentoring programs. Ms. Bitar also has led the fight for justice in many cases, challenging immigration policy and law that was discriminatory to women. One high-profile case that Sonia has lent her hand to is that of Filipino nanny, Leticia Cables. More recently, Ms. Bitar was responsible for producing a conference called Immigrant Women for the Millennium where delegates could focus and identify key issues and strategies for change. Through Sonia's continued efforts and work, immigrant women have a place where they can receive the support and work experience they need to become new and active Canadian citizens.
Kent, New Brunswick
A strong person who leads by example, Yvonne Bourgeois has been instrumental in founding a variety of groups to help Acadian and francophone farming women locally, provincially and internationally. Starting with the Grand-Digue's 4-H Club, the Feminine Institute of Grand-Digue, the Kent Women's Association, Mrs. Bourgeois went on to help form the Francophone branch of the New Brunswick Women's Institute. Taking her knowledge from both local and provincial levels, Mrs. Bourgeois helped to organize the Acadian Women of the World Summit of 1986 and has been a delegate to several National Farm Women's Conferences. She has been a member on the planning committee for the Beauséjour Women and Family Crisis Centre as well. Yvonne Bourgeois has been and continues to be a strong voice for rural Acadian women in New Brunswick.
Bindu Dhaliwal (Youth Award)
Barely out of her first university program and currently working on her second, some of Bindu Dhaliwal's work is being used as textbook tools in Women's Studies university-level courses across the country. Ms. Dhaliwal's face and voice are familiar on television, radio and newspapers as a spokesperson on issues relating to young women. Wanting to pass her experience as a youth delegate to The Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, Bindu helped to organize and train two young women for the youth delegation to Beijing +5 this year. As a founding member of the Kesri Ribbon Project and the South Asian Women Reaching Women, Ms. Dhaliwal helps South Asian youth and women stay in touch with each other and various youth and women's programs across Southern Ontario. She is a dedicated advocate and shining example of what young women can do to help improve Canadian society, no matter what their age.
Richmond, British Columbia
Through most of her young life, Cherry Kingsley lived with abuse and exploitation. At the age of 22, Ms. Kingsley overcame 8 years of drug addiction, sexual exploitation and abuse as a child prostitute by reconnecting with her First Nations' roots. Cherry took to action, shortly after, spreading her story and encouraging other young women and youth to tell their stories to the world. Taking these stories, Ms. Kingsley holds conferences, such as Out of the Shadows to increase awareness of the lives of fear child prostitutes live. Currently she is leading Out of the Shadows and into the Light project in partnership with Save the Children-Canada that seeks to empower young women and Aboriginal youth to break the cycle of the sex trade that some of them get caught in. Cherry travels the world gathering stories from other children and speaking on their behalf at international conferences. Recently the Ontario government has hired Ms. Kingsley to consult on policy matters concerning youth and sexual exploitation within the province. She continues to gather young women's stories and give voice to a topic that is so often shrouded in silence.
Rae, Northwest Territories
A role model to Dogrib women and her people, Dene elder Elizabeth Mackenzie strives to bring a balance between skills learned at school and those learned on the land. Using these elements to be "strong like two people" many young Dogrib women credit Ms. Mackenzie's example as the reason they are still actively pursuing an education, learning more about their native culture, and going on to professional careers. Even three of Elizabeth's daughters teach, interpret and create Dogrib learning materials because of their mother's interests. Her strong desire to promote learning in herself and others helped Ms. Mackenzie through two decades of service on the Rae-Edzo School Society, the first native run school in Canada. In 1991, her efforts in education, by combining the teachings of two cultures, were recognized in Rae when the elementary school was named in her honour.
After being elected as the founding president of the Local 70348 for the Public Service Alliance of Canada, Ms. Sonnemann started the ball rolling towards the biggest class action suit for pay equity. While working as a professional librarian at the National Library and Public Archives of Canada Sabine discovered that things did not add up when comparing salaries with the similar but male-dominated historical researchers and her own profession. After organizing study groups to look into the matter, the first pay equity case against the Federal Government was won in 1980 in great part because of Ms. Sonnemann's hard work and tenacity. Nearly 20 years later, the world's largest pay-equity settlement occurred. Thanks to the initiatives of Sabine Sonnemann, women across the country now realize the importance of equal pay for work of equal value.
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