Image: Canadian Living
In honour of International Women’s Day, we're looking to the women in our communities who have served as an inspiration in their careers and lives
Thanks to recent movements like #MeToo and #TimesUp that have significantly changed the way women are viewed and treated, there's never been a better time to be a woman or to celebrate the progress of women than on International Women’s Day.
On March 8, we celebrate the achievements made in areas of gender equality and closing the wage gap and women inspiring other women to do great things. What better way to do so than looking at the Canadian women who have made strides for fellow women in new or existing industries, and have improved the lives of people in their community and beyond?
Here, ten females in our home and native land who are upholding and improving the rights and lives of others.
Maike Van Niekerk (@maikevanniekerk)
Maike Van Niekerk is the founder of Katrin’s Karepackages, a charitable program that helps to offset travel costs for people undergoing cancer treatments. When Van Niekerk’s mother became sick with breast cancer, the family learned of the accessibility issues cancer patients in Newfoundland and Nova Scotia faced when seeking treatment. With the majority of health institutions often miles away in other cities, patients were required to pay much of the costs of their travel up front. With the development of Katrin’s Karepackages, Van Niekerk has been able to raise over $110,000 for people in need since its start in 2014.
Natalia Dolan (@nataliadolan_)
Through her initiative, The Girl Friends Project (@girlfriendsproject_), Toronto-based photographer Natalia Dolan has uncovered the photographic art of female friendship. The Girl Friends Project captures women and their friends and introduces viewers to the story behind each relationship. The project sheds light on partnerships that are unique and lends an eye to the power and potential behind female friendship.
Stephanie Labbe (@stephlabbe1)
Stephanie Labbe is a goalie for Canada women's national soccer team and a 2016 Olympic bronze medalist. Her inspiration doesn’t stop at sports: Labbe is also a strong mental health advocate and has spoken openly of her struggles with depression. Her commitment to de-stigmatizing the hurdles of mental health has made her a relatable and welcome voice in the arena of women’s sports.
Deanna Lentini is the founding director of Fix the 6ix, a grassroots organization that serves Toronto’s homeless community. Based off the mandate that the city belongs to everyone, the efforts of Fix the 6ix exist to humanize homelessness and provide support through a no-cost donation model, wherein donations can be made through re-gifting gift cards or providing goods and services to Toronto’s homeless shelters. Lentini’s contribution to the cause of homelessness has helped provide a much-needed attitude of inclusion and support to the people of Toronto.
Ashley Callingbull (@ashleycallingbull)
Ashley Callingbull is a motivational speaker, actress, and the first Canadian and First Nations woman to be named Mrs. Universe. As an important public figure in her Native Cree community, Callingbull has used her position to shine a light on her native heritage through multiple volunteer initiatives. She is also an international motivational speaker and has delivered speeches at Harvard University, TED Talks, and WE Day. In 2015, Callingbull was the recipient of an award from the United Nations for being a role model, presented to her on Global Dignity Day.
Natalie Panek (@natalie_panek)
Natalie Panek’s influence in the arena of science and space exploration has been exponential for young Canadian women. With degrees in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, rocket scientist Panek has made it her mission to encourage women to embark on challenging careers in non-traditional fields. For herself, Panek has designed and built a solar-powered car, which she drove across North America. Her commitment to the development of space robotics has led her to participate in internships at NASA’s Goddard Spaceflight Center and the Ames Research Center. It was here that she worked on a mission to Mars and since, she has worked on a series of high profile space projects, like MDA’s satellite servicing initiative and ESA’s 2020 ExoMars rover program.
Musemo “Mo” Handahu (@misslionhunter)
Otherwise known as Miss Lion Hunter, Musemo “Mo” Handahu immigrated to Canadian from Zimbabwe in 2000. Since then, she has created a popular lifestyle blog that serves to empower women of all cultures, shapes, and sizes through colourful fashion and self-expression. She’s been awarded with the Entrepreneurship, Youth Involvement and Outstanding Community Service Award by the Black Business Initiative and has collaborated with Etsy Canada to create workshops that teach others how to build a successful online presence.
Sherry Ansloos (@wemovement)
As a guidance counsellor for WE Schools, an educational resource for students that specializes in Indigenous programming, Sherry Ansloos works first-hand with at-risk youth. Some of her work involves teaching young people about the harsh reality of Canada’s dark history with relation to native communities, and to help students acknowledge and process the feelings they have regarding this history and its subsequent effects on their lives. Ansloos involvement encourages students to take action and find leadership qualities in themselves, ultimately influencing personal growth and improved social action amongst today’s vulnerable Canadian youth.
Gabrielle Bouchard (@gender.advocacy)
Gabrielle Bouchard has made history as the first transgender woman to be named president of the Fédération des femmes du Québec (FFQ). With over a decade of experience working with Concordia University's Centre for Gender Advocacy as a public educator and advocate for trans people, Bouchard has entered this role in an effort to represent all women of Quebec, including marginalized women like herself. Bouchard’s efforts in fighting for equality for women continues to shape and increase the feminist conversation in Canada today.
Molly Burke (@Mollyburkeofficial)
After going blind at the age of 14, enduring endless bullying and surviving a suicide attempt, Molly Burke decided to turn her life around for the better. In the years following, she started a successful YouTube channel, became a motivational speaker, and transformed her life into a story shaped by hope and happiness. Burke’s commitment to leading a life of inspiration and perseverance has helped shape the lives of people from young and old around the world.