Meet BCCIC's Delegates to the 65th Session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW65)
BCCIC is excited to announce our delegation to the 65th session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. CSW65 will take place from 15-26 March 2021, and this year’s priority theme is women’s full and effective participation and decision-making in public life, as well as in the elimination of violence for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls. Women’s empowerment and the link to sustainable development will also be reviewed based on agreed conclusions of the sixtieth session.
All delegates were selected from BCCIC’s volunteers, staff and board, as well as organizational and individual members. The delegates do not speak on behalf of BCCIC nor do they represent all womxn, men and persons with diverse genders and sexual identities in British Columbia. They each have unique perspectives and voices that have a right to be heard. These voices are some among many others coming to CSW from across British Columbia, Canada and the rest of the world.
This is an opportunity for BCCIC members to participate in the CSW alongside hundreds of fellow Canadians and many tens of thousand of people from around the world, all gathering to celebrate and learn together. Delegates can expect to gain knowledge and skills from each other, from the other delegates and from officials attending the Commission on the Status of Women. They will learn about the ‘Leave No One Behind’ pledge of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the interaction of SDG 5 (gender equality) with other goals in the 2030 Agenda. They will also learn more about inclusion, diversity and social justice from an intersectional gender lens.
As agents of change, we at BCCIC are humble in our efforts to learn and grow….transformation at the individual and societal level is necessary to accelerate 2030 Agenda implementation in this final Decade of Action.
For media or general inquiries about this delegation, please reach out to us at email@example.com.
Meet our Delegates!
Below you’ll find a list of BCCIC’s delegates to CSW65, in alphabetical order by last name. Click on any of these names to read their bios.
Chesa Abma is a proud member of Xwsepsum (Esquimalt Nation). She carries Frisian ancestry on her mother’s side and Lekwungen, Interior Salish, and European ancestry on her father’s side. Currently, Chesa is a first-year law student in the JD/JID Indigenous Law Program at the University of Victoria. She hopes to use her legal education to address issues, such as the overrepresentation of Indigenous persons within the criminal justice system, through Indigenous legal orders and a holistic and trauma-informed approach.
Chesa believes in the importance of representing the diverse perspectives of Indigenous peoples’ (especially Indigenous children and youth) in movements for change. Her goal is to utilize her experience and skills to work alongside Indigenous peoples, families and communities as they meet their goals and flourish.
For over seven years, Chesa has been dedicated to promoting education and learning. She has had the honour of working with children and youth in the Lekwungen territory, W̱SÁNEĆ territory and Aotearoa (New Zealand). Chesa has gained rich knowledge from the children and youth she has worked with, which further fuels her desire to uplift future generations. She has worked and volunteered to support children and youth through education, language revitalization, and the arts.
Through her personal and professional experience, Chesa has witnessed the strength of fostering the connections between Indigenous peoples in the North and South Pacific. During her time working with Pacific Peoples’ Partnership, Chesa organized an artist exchange that brought three artists to British Columbia from the Sepik Region of Papua New Guinea. The project’s impact was significant as one of the artists was the first woman from their community to travel internationally to showcase their art.
On her educational journey thus far, Chesa has achieved a certificate in Indigenous family support and a diploma in Indigenous studies from Camosun College and a bachelor of arts degree in professional communication from Royal Roads University.
The Founder and Director of Plassurban Planning and Design, Kristin brings extensive equity-driven urban design and planning expertise to all of her projects. An interdisciplinary scholar-practitioner with a background in architecture, urban design, and international development, Kristin’s intersectional urban planning and design practice is dedicated to supporting equity, diversity, and inclusion in the built environment.
Kristin is a Registered Professional Planner with the Canadian Institute of Planners and a member of the Planning Institute of British Columbia. She is the Vice President (Canada) of the Commonwealth Association of Planners, inaugural Chair of the Commonwealth Women in Planning Network, and a TeachSDG Ambassador. In 2018, Kristin was named one of Canada’s Top 25 Women of Influence for her work toward advancing gender equality in the built environment. She is currently pursuing a doctoral degree at Royal Roads University, where she is investigating the impact of urban policy and design on women’s equity in the lived environment.
With a strong background in government, policy, design, and social planning, Kristin has a particular interest in projects that advance equitable, sustainable development objectives locally, nationally, and globally. She firmly believes that public and private interests must work in unison to create great places which, in turn, empower people to create opportunities for themselves and for others.
Bashar Alsaeedi is a Policy Analyst at the British Columbia Council for International Cooperation (BCCIC), and has recently supported an in depth research project on SDG advisory councils in eight countries. He holds a Masters in Public Policy and Global Affairs and a BA in International Relations from the University of British Columbia.
Prior to joining the BCCIC team, Bashar was a Business Associate for the Investment and Technology Promotion Office (ITPO) of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) in Bahrain to strengthen the creation and growth of SMEs in Africa, Asia and South America to facilitate inclusive and sustainable industrial development (ISID). Part of Bashar’s role was to promote the government’s mandate of economic empowerment of women and youth in the Arab region and internationally, and stimulate various awareness and support programs for women and youth. He organized a number of entrepreneurial programs in Bahrain some of which were tailored to youth and stay-at-home mothers who have expressed interest in obtaining financial independence. Bashar had the opportunity to organize programs like Khatwa – meaning “the step” in Arabic which is a program for home based businesses as well as the Enterprise Development and Investment Promotion Program for local university students. As more women enter the workforce, this has not only created a more productive and competitive economy but has also improved the social fabric of the island nation. Bashar was fortunate to witness the achievements made by the Supreme Council for Women after its initial establishment under Royal Decree No. 44, to narrow the gender gap in education, health sector, and economic participation.
Bashar has a profound respect for his mother who became the first female doctor in her family and was able to break barriers in the medical field, not to mention practice medicine during the Gulf War while pregnant. Bashar believes that despite seeing strides in gender equality and women’s empowerment, more needs to be done. He hopes that his participation at the CSW65 will bring clarity to how different nations around the world will be able to accelerate their commitments to realizing gender equality and women empowerment through concrete policies in action.
Dr. Priya Bala-Miller is the founder and CEO of Palmyra Partners, where she focuses on building partnerships that bridge social justice and sustainable natural resource governance. She has been a passionate advocate for sustainability for the last 20 years, working on this agenda across three continents with UN Agencies, NGOs, trade unions, academia, governments and institutional investors. Her academic and professional experience covers a variety of sectors including sustainable finance, extractives, pharmaceuticals, tourism, and agricultural commodities, and where gender-equity has been a cross-cutting priority in her research and policy advocacy efforts. More recently, Dr. Bala-Miller led Partnerships and Program Development at the Canadian International Resources and Development Institute (CIRDI), where she spearheaded the Institute’s strategy for advancing gender equity. She currently serves as an Advisory Board Member to the Global Environment Facility’s PlanetGold Programme, which aims to increase the percentage of mercury-free artisan mined gold, on a joint WRI-NRGI research project on gender-transformative policy commitments for the extractives sector, and on the Equity and Diversity Committee for the Department of Political Science at the University of British Columbia (UBC). Dr. Bala-Miller holds a Masters in Conflict Analysis and Management from Royal Roads University, and an MA and PhD in Political Science from UBC.
Rachel Barr is VIDEA’s Innovation, Inclusion, and Gender Manager and lives on the traditional lands of the Lekwungen speaking peoples. Rachel became part of the VIDEA family in 2015 as an IYIP intern and joined as a staff member in 2018. Rachel is a collaborator on a number of VIDEA programs, including the International Indigenous Youth internships and the Journey from the Heart programming. Rachel feels lucky to work within a local and international context, alongside her friends, colleagues, and partner organizations, who are always teaching her new things about the global issues that connect us all.
Kaila Borrelli is a Program Manager in the telecommunication industry where she manages and oversees construction projects across Western Canada. She currently serves on the Board of Directors of the British Columbia Council for International Cooperation as their treasurer. Previously Kaila attended the Women Deliver Conference in 2019 and was a youth delegate at the High-Level Political Forum on the Sustainable Development Goals in 2018, where she advocated for meaningful youth involvement and inclusion of marginalized communities in the Canadian Government’s initiatives within the SDG framework.
Kaila has studied International Business and Environmental Studies at the University of Victoria, where she learned about the intersection between the fields, and developed a passion for Corporate Sustainability. She is currently continuing her studies in this field through the Sustainable Business Leadership program at the British Columbia Institute for Technology. Having worked in a male dominated industry throughout her career, Kaila strives to increase the percentage of women in the upper management levels in business and create a culture that supports gender equality in the workplace.
Amy is a project and communications coordinator at Pathways Serious Mental Illness Society, a nonprofit that provides family support, education and advocacy for people living with a serious mental illness in B.C. She takes seriously Toni Morrison’s command to use her power to empower others and believes that this can be realized every day in our interactions with one another.
In 2013, Amy graduated from Warwick University (UK) with an Hon. BA in Sociology and History. During her time there she developed a deep and lasting interest in the way power works in society with an intersectional lens, and what strategies can be used in the struggle against all forms of oppression. She then spent five years working with children and adults in education in Madrid and Vancouver before moving into sustainable development and the nonprofit sector.
Amy has been working with BCCIC on a project to localize the Sustainable Development Goals for the city of Kelowna, working in research and analysis on a wide range of SDGs. In particular she played a leading role working with Indigenous organizations in the province and in Kelowna to incorporate Indigenous perspectives as they relate to the Sustainable Development Goals.
Amy hopes that the 65th session will address the need to take bold and urgent steps in order to ensure womxn’s full and effective participation and decision-making in public life and the elimination of violence against womxn.
Lili was born and raised in Treaty 6 territory in Edmonton, Alberta and she is a proud member of the Métis Nation of Alberta. She is currently in the final year of her undergraduate degree at the University of Calgary with a double major in Development Studies and International Indigenous Studies.
Lili works as an Inclusion and Engagement Officer with VIDEA, an international development organization based in Victoria, BC. She was an intern with VIDEA in the winter of 2020 where she worked with EWAD, an NGO based in Entebbe, Uganda. Lili was a youth champion with the Spur Change Program in the 2020 cohort, works as the Director of Internal Relations on the Indigenous Students Circle at the University of Calgary and sits on the University of Calgary’s Ethical Space Committee. She is passionate about gender equality, women’s empowerment, and the way they deeply intersect with climate change, universal human rights, and sustainability. Lili is excited to listen, learn, and promote a decolonial, Indigenous perspective on gender equality with this year’s delegation.
Dr. Zosa De Sas Kropiwnicki-Gruber is the Policy Director & Gender Specialist at BCCIC. She was awarded a doctorate in International Development Studies from the University of Oxford, as well as two Masters degrees in Political Science and Social Policy from Leeds University and Rhodes University, respectively. Zosa has accrued 17 years of experience in research, evaluation, and policy analysis in developing, transitional, and emergency contexts in South East Europe, Central Asia, West Africa, and Southern Africa. Zosa has worked for a wide range of government, non-government, and international non-governmental organizations such as UNICEF, UNDP, UNODC, IOM, Save the Children, Childline and Family for Every Child.
Zosa’s doctoral research focused on the sexual exploitation of adolescent girls in Southern Africa. Since then much of her research, advocacy and policy development has centred on protecting women and children from different forms of violence, exploitation and trafficking, addressing the root causes of this violence, and promoting resilience, agency and empowerment among girls and women. More recently, Zosa has expanded her focus to the ‘leave no one behind’ (LNOB) pledge, one of the underlying principles of the Sustainable Development Goals. At BCCIC, Zosa has taken the lead on several policy, research and capacity development initiatives related to gender equality and women’s empowerment, including the development of an organizational gender strategy and PSEA policy, and writing various guidelines, policy briefs and reports, such as Leveraging the Interlinkages: Gender Equality, Women’s Empowerment and the SDGs. Zosa is also responsible for organizing and leading delegations to the Commission on the Status of Women. She is very excited to be heading this year’s delegation to the 65th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women, and is looking forward to learning a great deal from her fellow delegates, advocating for an intersectional perspective on gender equality, and engaging in meaningful conversations about inclusion, equity and diversity within the feminist movement.
Marian attended the 1985 UN Decade for Women NGO Forum in Nairobi, Kenya and wrote and presented on the experience many times afterward. She developed and facilitated workshops for teachers on Thinking Globally – Global Education for Gender Equality. Furthermore, she coordinated Status of Women and Social Justice programs for the BC Teachers’ Federation, and edited the Status of Women Journal and wrote/published numerous pieces for Teacher magazine on gender topics. She was the Gender Advisor (though Cuso International) for the Ethiopian Ministry of Education Gender Directorate in Addis Ababa from 2010 to 2013, and then the Program Development Advisor to Cuso International for RMNCH projects in Ethiopia (2015, 2016).
Marian has numerous accomplishments that should be highlighted. She was the Vice President for the Canadian Home Economics Association overseeing a committee responsible for gender projects in thirteen developing countries. She wrote successful proposals for three CIDA Global Classroom Initiative projects funded by CIDA and coordinated these projects for the BC Teachers’ Federation. In addition, she wrote Gender Mainstreaming Guidelines for the Ethiopian government, and developed a Gender Responsive Pedagogy curricula for the Ethiopian government. In Ethiopia, she also co-facilitated several gender training initiatives for Cuso and VSO volunteers in Ethiopia.
Marian is passionate about gender equality and has high hopes for CSW65. “My entire career has had a focus on equity and inclusion from a local to global perspective with an emphasis on the intersections between gender, culture and class. In a global pandemic set within a context of racial injustice, misogyny and a global climate crisis we are at a crossroads with the potential to shift to solutions. The urgency of the situation requires all humans to work collaboratively to shift policies and actions to ensure the survival of the planet. Gender equity on a global scale is a necessary and key part of such solutions.”
Maya is currently an undergraduate student at the University of British Columbia studying International Relations and Political Science. Her areas of interest lie at the intersections of climate, health and social justice, and she strives to employ an intersectional lens through both her academic and professional work.
Currently she is an Assistant Policy Analyst on the Multilateral Affairs team of the BCCIC Climate Change Branch. Her work focuses on researching potential climate impacts in different regions of the world, and developing a conceptual framework for international development civil society organizations to adopt. In doing so, her team hopes to provide the steps needed in order to address rapid and slow-onset climate impacts in their line of work. As the world continues to tackle climate change, it is imperative to recognize that its effects are shaped by pervasive, entrenched and systemic gender inequality, contributing to an unequal burden on women.
“As a Chinese-Canadian settler, I endeavour to ensure that I am not only actively reflecting on the spaces that I occupy, but also my role in creating spaces that centres around amplifying the voices of women, girls and gender minorities, especially those in BIPOC communities. I am very excited to take part in CSW65 this year to further reflect on my role in achieving gender equality, and learning more about the intersections of feminism and climate justice.”
Emily Evans is the Senior Inclusion Facilitator at STEPS-Forward, the BC Initiative for Inclusive Post-Secondary Education and has been in this role at the University of Victoria for three years. She works to support seven UVic students with a disability label to be included in all aspects of university life. Emily is passionate about creating equitable access to education, creating safe and inclusive spaces, and supporting gender equality initiatives. She is a grateful resident on the traditional territory of the Lekwungen peoples, now known as Victoria BC, Canada.
Dr. June Francis is the Co-Founder of The Co-Laboratorio project that works to foster gender and racial inclusion through strengthening cross-sector collaboration, learning and innovation — for more inclusive resilient solutions in governance, policies and industry practice. She is an Associate Professor in the Business and Society and Entrepreneurship and Innovations areas at the Beedie School of Business at Simon Fraser University. As Director of the Institute for Diaspora Research and Engagement at SFU she leads the Institute in its mandate to strengthen the links between scholarly research, policy and practice related to multi-cultural and diaspora communities and their role in building innovative, sustainable and inclusive initiatives.
She is an advocate for equity, diversity and inclusion for racialized groups and gender equality from an intersectional approach. A highly engaged academic and activist, she has given over 50 media interviews on racial equity issues and numerous dialogues and presentations. She is currently on the National Education Steering Committee of the new Black North Initiative (BNI), Advisor on Vancouver Homeless Point in Time Count – Race Based Data, Member of Advisory Committee of Black Health Matters, on the Covid-19 Social Impacts Network, Expert Advisory Committee, Member of the steering committee, Wosk Centre for Dialogue and task force for the Diversity and Inclusion Working Group PDAC. As Co-Chair of The Hogan’s Alley Society’s Board of Director, she also leads an organization whose mission is to advance the social, political, economic and cultural well-being of people of African Descent through the delivery of housing, built spaces and programming. She served on SFU’s Board of Governors from 2012-2018 and previously served for several years on the Board of Directors of MOSAIC, a key immigrant and refugee settlement society.
June Francis’ extensive experience spans the private sector, as an entrepreneur, with civil society on governance boards and as an academic. Her research and practice focus on diversity, inter-culturality, leadership and participatory engagement approaches with vulnerable and excluded groups, including women and racialized communities. She works with governments, industry and civil society, to advance diversity and inclusion in governance and economic opportunities, across a wide range of formal and informal sectors. An award-winning teacher, she has worked internationally to strengthen governance and experiential learning in China, Caribbean, South America, and Europe. Originally from Jamaica, June has also written a series of guidebooks about World EXPOs & national parks in the USA.
June was recognized by the Province of British Columbia and the National Congress of Black Women as a Trailblazer. The City of Vancouver also recognized her for her contributions to education and to the City, and she is also the recipient of a Service Award from the Beedie School of Business for her contributions to the community. She was recently named Chatelaine Trailblazing List of Black Canadians Making Change Now. Originally from Jamaica, June earned her BSc (first class Honours from the University of the West Indies) and later moved to Canada where she earned her MBA (Schulich School of Business, York University). June completed her PhD in the United States (University of Washington) later earning an LLB from the UK (BPP School of Law).
Dr. Geetanjali Gill is a member of BCCIC, an Assistant Professor in the Global Development Studies program at the University of the Fraser Valley (UFV) in Abbotsford, BC, and an independent gender and development consultant. Geetanjali has completed academic degrees in International Development Studies, with specializations in gender and rural development, from the University of Sussex (PhD), London School of Economics and Political Science (MSc), and the University of Toronto (BA Co-op, Specialist). Geetanjali teaches courses in Gender and Development, Refugees and Displacement, Development Ethics, Poverty and Development, Global Health and Development, Humanitarian Aid, and Development Issues in Sub-Saharan Africa. She has recently initiated research projects on socio-cultural norms and education outcomes in Sub-Saharan Africa, the empowerment of women and girls with albinism in West Africa, and gender-based violence amongst refugee and host populations in Lebanon and Uganda. Prior to her work at UFV, she has worked as a researcher for the Institute of Development Studies in the UK, Royal Tropical Institute in the Netherlands, and Dr. Vandana Shiva’s ecological research foundation in India.
Geetanjali has worked for more than sixteen years as a development practitioner and gender trainer in the UK, Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and Canada. She has worked with the European Union, Global Affairs Canada, the Government of Mauritius, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the British Council, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), Southern African Development Community (SADC), and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD). Most recently, she has carried out gender consultancies for NGOs such as Help Age International, Canadian Foodgrains Bank, Aga Khan Foundation Canada, Right to Play International, and the Justice Education Society International.
Geetanjali’s main interest in the practice and study of global development is recognizing and addressing intersectional gender equality issues and highly marginalized groups in the global South, and advising development organizations and actors on how to integrate an intersectional gender lens and feminist principles into their work. https://www.ufv.ca/gds/faculty/gill-geetanjali.htm
Gurleen Grewal recently completed her MA in English at Simon Fraser University where her research interests were in the fields of Black Studies, Discourse Analysis and Gender and Sexuality. Throughout her scholarship, she examined how gendered and racialized forms of being interacted and affected one’s lived experience: ways of knowing, being, moving through and with/in the world.
Seeking to better understand how she might contribute to global solidarities, Gurleen took on a volunteer position with BCCIC as a Public Engagement Writing Assistant. Her time with BCCIC was invaluable in elucidating the overlapping precarities that shape the landscape of women and girls’ lives in the Global South, and in more local contexts as well. It is in this role that she first learned of the robust civil society activity that sustained and interrogated the efficacy of Canada’s global engagement in the form of feminist promises, such as those manifested in the Feminist International Assistance Policy.
She is now serving as International Development Communications Specialist with World Neighbours Canada, a small civil society organization based in the Interior of BC. In this role, she wrote a case study on gender equity and sustainable development for BCCIC’s report prepared for the UN’s 64th Commission on the Status of Women (titled, “Localizing SDG 5: A Case Study on Rural Development Work that Addresses Interlinkages), and she participated in one of BCCIC’s Groundtruths webinars speaking on holistic approaches to advancing the health and wellbeing of women in girls in Burkina Faso, Nepal, and Honduras. Most recently, she has worked alongside WNC’s Executive Director, Bruce Petch, and their Country Coordinator for Burkina Faso, Judy Gray, to submit a funding proposal for a project that will research the potential efficacy of a gender-transformative approach that identifies and addresses root obstacles to women’s full and equitable economic participation in the livestock smallholder sector in rural Burkina Faso.
Through the process of working with WNC and its partner organization in Burkina Faso, Gurleen has come to reflect upon the challenges in ensuring women and girls’ voices lead how the processes of conceiving, monitoring, evaluating, and calibrating any given solution proceed. She has come to understand the necessity of using tools such as a Rapid and In-Depth Gender Scan, or a Gender Equality Strategy to rigorously interrogate how each point of a given solution can address gender barriers in design, testing, and intended results. “I still have much to learn,” she concedes.
“In attending CSW65, I plan to better grasp how one can develop and integrate locally-appropriate methods of monitoring and mitigating gender-based violence that may result from the very efforts to dismantle patriarchal obstacles to women and girl’s empowerment. I will work to understand how small and medium civil society organizations in Canada can be better-equipped to harness existing resources to ameliorate the present lack of data that impedes the development of sufficient evidence regarding progress for many of the targets under SDG 5. And, I will question how data gathered on development interventions that focus on women and girl’s empowerment during the COVID-19 pandemic can help inform more robust crisis response plans for the future.”
Veronika is a Russian woman from Kazakhstan living on the unceded, traditional territory of the Coast Salish Peoples. She recently completed a Bachelor of Science in Conservation at the University of British Columbia (UBC) where she learned about ecology, community-based conservation, and their connections with social well-being and economics.
Veronika believes in the importance of supporting womxn in education and leadership roles. During university, she was a member of a club called “Young Women for STEM” (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). Veronika visited high schools in her community and presented on the gender pay gap and imbalance in leadership roles in STEM. She also shared her own experiences in a science program in hopes of inspiring more teenage womxn to pursue STEM fields.
In 2019, Veronika was grateful to be part of BCCIC’s SDG Bootcamp where she spent the summer learning about her role as a young professional woman and white Russian settler in using SDGs for transformation social change. At the end of the summer, she had the honour of representing Canadian youth at the UN High Level Political Forum on the SDGs in New York City. There, she presented on the topic, “The Importance of Intergenerational Equity in SDG #13: Climate Action”.
Currently, Veronika works at an ocean conservation organization called SeaLegacy and Only One. She aims to learn about womxn’s experiences in coastal communities and how she can support their leadership in ocean policy-making.
Kate Haworth is VIDEA’s Program Coordinator and a former IYIP intern. Kate recently completed a Masters in Development Studies at the University of Cape Town and now lives on Treaty 13 territory in Toronto. Kate is interested in global interconnectedness and passionate about inspiring collective action for the greater good. She is an advocate for an intersectional approach to gender equality in which all womxn are respected, valued and supported. She hopes that the voices of Indigenous women and girls will feature prominently at CSW65.
Katelynne, 25, is in her last year of studies at Royal Roads University in the Justice Studies Program. She is Inuk from her father’s side and is Celtic and Viking on her mother’s side. Katelynne treasures her ancestry and is proud to be Inuk. She has taken part in many different leadership opportunities, currently she is the Deputy Chair of the Canadian Commission for UNESCO’s Youth Advisory where she was the first Indigenous youth to represent Canada at the 11th Annual UNESCO Youth Conference in Paris, a member of Pauktuutit Inuit Women in Canada’s Youth Gender Equality Council and was a delegate to COP25 in Madrid of 2019. Katelynne believes in decolonizing practices of leadership and reclaiming maricharical traditions and roles from her ancestry, she believes by Indigenous women reclaiming their traditions we can strive for a more diverse and sustainable path to gender equality. Katelynne is currently an Indigenous Governance Advisor at VIDEA.
Holly is currently in her fourth year of completing her undergraduate degree in Global Development Studies at the University of the Fraser Valley. Throughout her studies, Holly has found a deep interest in how women are disproportionately impacted by climate change, both locally and abroad. She hopes to continue to explore this field after she graduates and to make a positive contribution in assisting marginalized groups of women mitigate climate change.
Holly has been a member of the Student Refugee Program at UFV since 2017. She is currently the Executive Community Outreach Coordinator for the committee. This program was implemented by a small and passionate group of students, including herself, under the guidance of World University Services of Canada (WUSC). This program provides the means for individuals living in refugee camps to partner with Canadian Universities to pursue higher education and opportunities in Canada. The committee was able to sponsor their first student in January, 2020 and is preparing to sponsor another student this Fall, 2021. WUSC also has initiatives aimed towards addressing the barriers that young women face around the world. While the UFV committee has not had the capacity to do so yet, they hope to implement gender focused initiatives in the near future.
Holly is currently working as an assistant to the Tier One Canada Research Chair in Indigenous and Community-Engaged History at UFV. For this position she is assisting in the establishment of a community-engaged research program with the Peace and Reconciliation Centre that is designed to generate an on-going cycle of internships for students. She is also currently working as a research assistant to the assistant professor of Integrative Career & Capstone Learning at UFV on a research project that is looking at how to employ the U.N. SDGs in the context of enhancing student career development.
Holly is also currently working as an intern at BCCIC directly under the Policy Director & Gender Specialist. She is assisting in the organization of the delegation for CSW65 this year. Holly is thrilled to be attending the CSW65 conference amongst such an amazing and inspiring group of people. She is very grateful for this opportunity and is eager to see what she will learn at the conference, and from the people around her.
Ella is a 21 year old BCCIC climate change branch volunteer, and has been working on various research projects for the organization since September. She is a 4th year Honours sociology and environmental studies student at UBC, working on a thesis project on the topic of how workers will be impacted by a just transition to cleaner energy sources in Canada. Ella is particularly interested in the unique issues faced by Canadian-Asian women and the intersection between environmentalism and women’s rights. Ella is thrilled to have the opportunity to attend the CSW65 conference this year. She is hoping to learn more about how women, specifically minority women, will be impacted by sustainable future plans and what role women will play in attaining a just and green future.
Isaac Mbewe is VIDEA’s Safety and Logistics Coordinator in Zambia. Isaac is passionate about fair trade and justice for all. Before joining the team at VIDEA, Isaac worked as part of the team at Women for Change, advocating for gender equality. Isaac is passionate about gender equality and believes strongly in the power of educating men and women about gender issues. Isaac has experience engaging traditional leaders in Zambia on gender sensitization and the importance of pushing for gender equity within their territories. Isaac helps to coordinate our Indigenous Internship programme with a focus on supporting logistics and the safety of interns.
Ariel is a first year Norman Patterson School of International Relations student who has an academic focus in intersectional feminist program implementation in Latin America.
Her previous international development experience includes being a board member of the British Columbia Council for International Cooperation (BCCIC) from (2017-2020), where she represented British Columbian youth at Women Deliver 2019, the United Nations’ Sixty-Third session of the Commission on the Status of Women, and the United Nations High Level Political Forum in 2018.
Previously, Ariel worked as a research and communications consultant for the Lao PDR’s Gender Development Association, where she supports ethnic minority women’s climate justice advocacy and economic adaptation. She has also worked as an Event Planner for the First Nations Health Authority where she managed the implementation of conferences and workshops on sexual health, tuberculosis, harm reduction, HIV, and immunizations with an Indigenous lens across British Columbia. Ariel has worked in Mongolia and India where she supported grassroots development projects. She graduated with a Bachelors of Commerce from the University of Victoria in 2016.
Bertha Mukonda is the Education Hub Team Leader. Bertha joined VIDEA through Women for Change in grade 11 and has been a part of the Education Program with VIDEA for eight years. Bertha used her expertise to develop an exciting and innovative Social Justice and Contemporary Indigenous Studies curriculum for an alternative school in B.C. Bertha graduated from the University of Zambia with a Bachelor of Education in Special Education in 2019, and became the Education Hub Team Leader in 2020. Bertha is passionate about social justice, universal access to human rights, and supporting differently-abled people. Her belief that all voices must be heard and considered to achieve equality, led Bertha to become a special needs teacher. Bertha is passionate about sharing what she learns with others in her community.
Morgane Oger is the founder of the Morgane Oger Foundation, which works across Canada to narrow the gap between our country’s laws and the experience of people impacted by systemic discrimination. Morgane’s work as a community organizer and changemaker is recognized for its success reaching the hearts and minds of others by working with everyone towards the common good and more-just outcomes.
Morgane successfully helped organize the push to add gender identity or expression to Canada’s human rights protections which was enacted federally in 2017. Morgane ran for public office in provincial and municipal elections and served as vice-president of a provincial political party that was in government at the time.
Morgane won a key precedent-setting human rights case in 2019. It affirmed that in Canada the protection from discrimination on explicitly-prohibited grounds includes transgender women and that one person’s right to live free from discrimination is equal to another person’s right to free expression or religious belief. Morgane lives in Vancouver with her two secondary-school aged children. In 2020, Morgane contributed to the book We Resist – Defending the Common Good in Hostile Times, published by McGill – Queens University Press. Morgane was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal by the Governor General of Canada for “bringing honour to Canada” with her LGBTQ2+ advocacy.
Christiana Onabola holds a Master of Public Policy & Global Affairs from the University of British Columbia, Canada. She previously worked in Nigeria as a Monitoring and Evaluation Consultant on a National Maternal Health Programme, where she employed a gender-focused lens in implementing health promotion approaches for different population groups and in generating demand for maternal and child health services. Having taken classes in GBA+ analysis and graduate-level gender classes, a part of her burgeoning gender-informed interests is in feminist analyses of the nuanced wielding of power in the international policy and politics space, which have been particularly shaped by the works of remarkable authors like Enloe, Cynthia – ‘ Bananas, Beaches and Bases Making Feminist Sense of International Politics. Her other areas of interests encompass making feminist sense of resource development, drawing attention to cultural and gendered narratives of exploitation and the degradation of natural resources ecosystems, and highlighting vulnerabilities – and coping strategies – that have perpetuated gendered socio-economic conditions including poverty and poor health outcomes. She has undertaken a gender-focused analysis of the book – “I am Evelyn Amony: Reclaiming my Life from the Lord’s Resistance Army.” She is currently a third-year doctoral candidate majoring in Interdisciplinary Health Sciences. Her doctoral research explores social and environmental inequities, post-structuralist theory of nexus interactions and implications for health and wellbeing.
Anu Pala is an accessibility and inclusion consultant, certified life coach, trainer, public speaker, and freelance writer. Anu has worked in the non-profit sector for over twenty years in the areas of fundraising, career development, program coordination, vision loss rehabilitation, technology training, project management, and event coordination. Anu has also worked as a radio broadcaster and has led media initiatives for fundraising events. The majority of Anu’s career has focused on supporting marginalized groups such as persons with disabilities and women
In 1991, Anu lost her vision due to a retinal detachment. Despite this setback, she has not allowed it to define her, but rather uses it to fuel her towards meaningful work-to inspire, motivate and empower others to maximize their potential and opportunities and work towards living a positive and meaningful life. Anu’s philosophy is to experience life with enthusiasm, positivity and a glass half-full attitude. Currently, Anu offers services through her business, A-Nu Vision Coaching & Consulting, works part-time with the Surrey Women’s Centre, and volunteers with SIETAR BC and the Measuring Up committee through the City of Surrey.
In April 2019, Anu completed her undergraduate degree in professional communications at Royal Roads University and was the recipient of the founders award. Additionally, in June 2018, Anu received a scholarship through the Erving K. Barber One World Scholarship, to conduct an international research project. Through this opportunity, she carried out a study to explore the barriers of blind youth and working age adults in Fiji with a focus on education, employment, and social inclusion. As a woman of colour living with vision loss, Anu values diversity, inclusion, and equality for all.
Anu has always been passionate about having opportunities to share her insights and experiences to inspire and empower women and girls to improve their quality of life and to raise awareness about the importance of gender equality. “I am excited to be a part of BCCIC’s delegation this year at CSW65. I look forward to learning about the incredible and inspiring work that is being led by women and girls locally and globally. The key areas that resonate with me are women with disabilities, gender-based violence, and girls empowerment.”
Angela is the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Programming Assistant at the British Columbia Council for International Cooperation (BCCIC), and is grateful to reside on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded Indigenous territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh), and Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) peoples.
Angela has a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations from the University of British Columbia (UBC) where she focused a lot of her undergraduate research in environmental issues, politics, and Indigenous rights along with the intersections of feminism and the female experience.
When she is not in office at BCCIC, she is a research assistant with the School of Nursing at UBC as part of the ART & Justice program, an art initiative that aims to promote the mental health of incarcerated men. She also volunteers with Ocean Wise as part of their Ocean Bridge Program, which aims to connect youth to make a difference in ocean conservation. Previously, she held several other positions with UBC, the federal government, and environmental non-profits.
At the CSW 65, Angela is looking forward to learning more about topics relating to women’s participation and leadership in the public sphere, intersectionality, and the economic empowerment of women globally.
Anar is a certified corporate director with 20 years of leadership experience in corporate governance, international business, strategic consulting, and stakeholder engagement. Anar helps boards navigate through strategy, innovation, and emerging issues. With an ethos of life-long learning and serving in the public interest she draws from her corporate, public, and not-for-profit board and leadership experiences to contribute to board discussions to positively affect board diversity, succession, and culture. Her experiences include healthcare, education, financial services, government, regulatory, manufacturing & distribution with functional expertise in credit risk and supply chain.
Having a keen interest in sustainability and governance best practices, Anar is completing the Global ESG Competent Board Certification focusing on Environmental, Social and Governance principles which include the Sustainable Development Goals, Equity, Diversity & Inclusion, Climate Change Risk, Supply Chain & Human Rights, Cybersecurity & Responsible Use of Data, Anti-Corruption & Transparency, and Shareholder & Stakeholder Engagements & Disclosure.
She has served on numerous boards and advisory councils and is currently the Chair of the Honorary Governors’ Council at the Vancouver Foundation, Director at Consumer Protection BC, Regional Ambassador of Women Get on Board and Member of the Canadian Internet Regulatory Authority (CIRA) Nomination Committee. Her previous appointments include Vice-Chair of Canuck Place Children’s Hospice, Member of the Multicultural Advisory Council of BC and President of the Canadian Club of Vancouver.
She is also a partner in a family wealth management practice, having spent 15 years in consulting and business development with Dun & Bradstreet working with multi-size companies in a wide range of industries. Her international experience comes from managing a steel distribution and agricultural implements manufacturing operation in Kenya working with stakeholders in Africa, Europe, and the Middle East.
Anar is a recipient of the 2020 BMO Celebrates Women on Boards Award for empowering women to lead in corporate governance, the 2013 RBC Top 25 Canadian Immigrants Award for exemplary community engagement, and multiple Dun & Bradstreet Presidential Citations for excellence in management of her corporate clients. She holds a Bachelor of Business & Economics and is a graduate of the Wharton School’s Executive Development Program and the Institute of Corporate Directors.
Panthea Pourmalek is a 4th year student at the University of British Columbia completing an undergraduate degree in Political Science and International Relations, and a current policy and research volunteer with the British Columbia Council for International Cooperation. Most recently, she created a set of guidelines for the equitable selection and support of youth delegations to international conferences, such as the CSW. She is passionate about facilitating dynamic and meaningful inclusion of racialized youth, women, and gender minorities in important conversations and decision-making tables.
Her academic work is focused on non-international armed conflicts and International Humanitarian Law. She is completing her thesis on the governance structures of armed rebel groups in civil wars. She hopes that her research will share new insights on protecting vulnerable peoples in areas subjected to extended armed conflict with the policy and academic community and contribute toward greater consideration of these populations in development and human security initiatives.
Janet has broad health care experience in leadership roles including administration project management, professional practice, education and more recently leading a policy team with Be’s nursing regulatory college. She has now retired from a rewarding career and is launching herself into new endeavours, SDG’s included!
Gender equality and empowerment was a continuous theme in my health care leadership. She held senior leadership responsibility for service delivery to marginalized populations – people with multiple chronic health problems, First Nations people off reserve, older adults the majority of whom are women and newcomers to Canada formerly refugees or asylum seekers. In the case of the latter, specialized clinics served many women whose sexual and reproductive health needs played prominently in their forced migration and re-settlement journeys. In project leadership she led cross-functional teams to remove barriers and resolve gaps to enhance equitable access to quality care particularly for disadvantaged people and marginalized groups. Their inclusion in the change process contributed to better health outcomes and improved system function.
Nursing, a predominantly female occupation, continues to grapple with a history of power imbalances and systemic structures that reinforce traditional gender roles. Empowerment in the profession has not been a linear process and although it has yet to be fully satisfied, they have gained ground. Throughout her career she has supported nurses to challenge their historical legacy, attain personal and professional agency and optimize interdisciplinary team functions in the interest of the patients, clients and residents they serve.
“Although I’m retired, I’m not finished professionally. I am pursuing generative opportunities that offer a combination of learning and service. The CSW64 Delegation experience appeals to me because of its policy focus on gender equality, equity and empowerment, issues of compelling importance to me as a woman, a person of privilege and a global citizen. I believe that I have a responsibility to give back to society, I have resources to offer and I want to make a concrete contribution to making a better world. I’m excited to be part of the CSW Delegation, to join the synergies of people committed to the SDG Agenda 2030. Let no one be left behind!”
Maya Redlinger is a Policy Analyst at the Youth Climate Branch of BCCIC. Her work focuses on NGO strategies to adapt to climate change, including the disproportionate consequences of climate change for women and girls. She was previously a Nordic policy analyst and a contributing author to BCCIC’s report for CSW64. Maya is deeply grateful to BCCIC for creating an intergenerational space that empowers women to be vocal in the policy arena. She firmly believes that the female-led and gender-balanced teams at the Youth Climate Branch cultivated her confidence to express ideas, criticisms, and gendered experiences in group settings. She is excited to learn from the other delegates at CSW65 and work together towards a more equitable world.
Maya is a current student at the University of British Columbia, excited to graduate this spring with a BA in International Relations and a minor in Economics. Outside of BCCIC, she has volunteered at the UBC Global Lounge and at St. Anthony’s Foundation Dining Room for vulnerable populations. She also interned at the U.S. Department of State, where she worked on COVID-19 assistance in the Pacific Island countries. In the future, Maya hopes to develop professional expertise on climate change, migration, and gendered experiences in the Asia-Pacific Region.
Born in Copenhagen and raised in San Francisco, Maya now lives in Vancouver, Canada where she enjoys running, hiking, cooking, and playing the electric bass in an all-female rock band.
Hillary Ronald is the Youth Programs Manager at VIDEA. Hillary is a settler from rural Manitoba but currently lives on the unceded territories of the Lekwungen and W̱SÁNEĆ peoples. Hillary has been working with VIDEA since 2014 in a variety of capacities and currently manages the International Indigenous Youth Internship program as well as other central projects and programs. Hillary wants to work with others to build a world where all womxn are supported to thrive and be their full selves. A world that does not create space or excuses for gender-based violence or silence victims. She feels so privileged to be able to work with incredible youth from across so-called Canada as well as Zambia and Uganda and is so proud of the many ways young people across the globe are challenging structures of power and daring to demand a better world that holds up all people.
Margot Sangster has over twenty-five years of professional experience in international development, public health, labour force development, refugee/immigrant settlement, etc. She earned a Master’s Degree in Counselling Psychology and an Administrative Management Diploma, completed the Harvard Global Mental Health Trauma and Recovery Certificate, and recently completed an International Development Certificate at the University of British Columbia. Margot currently works in residential addictions treatment and previously worked with Vancouver Coastal Health (e.g. Vancouver Drug Treatment Court, Cross-Cultural Mental Health Program, Whistler Mental Health and Addictions Centre, etc.)
In addition, she worked with a private sector cross-cultural consulting firm and the New Westminster School District Community Education Department with income assistance recipients. Margot worked in Afghanistan on US AID contracts for two years (e.g. Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs, Martyrs and Disabled Kabul Employment Centre; Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation, Livestock Private Sector Development Directorate; etc.) and on two short-term CIDA contracts in the Philippines. She volunteered with Canadian Crossroads International in Kenya. Margot was appointed to the City of Vancouver’s Women’s Advisory Committee 2017 – 2018. Margot lives in Vancouver, Canada where she enjoys going to the gym, walking, cycling, hiking, swimming, dancing, and meditating.
Chris Singelengele is VIDEA’s Indigenous Internship Coordinator and is instrumental in supporting the journey of each and every intern who passes through VIDEA. Chris is passionate about climate change and is a strong advocate for the equality of women and girls. Chris joined VIDEA after many years working as a gender rights activist with Women for Change, with a specific focus on supporting gender equality in rural development projects. Chris is a former teacher, head teacher, and youth empowerment professional. He is extraordinarily sympathetic, adaptable and accepting. Chris is a strong advocate for the rights of vulnerable and under-represented youth.
Laura Smith recently graduated from the University of Winnipeg with a degree in International Development Studies and has since settled back on Vancouver Island where she grew up. Laura lives with a spirited husky mix dog named Peaches. Together they explore and enjoy the natural beauty around Victoria. Laura works for individuals with disability labels as they pursue post-secondary education and a meaningful future after graduation. She is passionate about human rights, ethical community development, and creating inclusive communities.
Demitra Soursos is the Monitoring and Evaluation Administrative Assistant at the British Columbia Council for International Cooperation (BCCIC). Here, Demitra works under the Operations Manager in ensuring BCCIC’s programming follows and promotes the SDGs, as well as the Government of Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy (FIAP). She has recently completed a BA with high distinction in International Relations and Economics at the University of British Columbia (Vancouver), where her independent research centred around gender and development in the Middle East and Africa, as well as the impacts of health and income barriers on child educational attainment in the region. Demitra has long held a passion for international development and the social, political, emotional, and economic empowerment of women and girls across the developing world, and looks forward to continuing her education devoted to promoting the agency and wellness of women around the world.
At 17, Demitra co-founded a charitable organization that aided in the settlement of Syrian refugees in Surrey. Her position as Charity Organizer connected her to many fantastic immigrant and refugee outreach programs, such as UMOJA and the global We Stand With Refugees campaign, as well as other international partnerships united in the goal of celebrating the resettlement and integration of refugee populations. As well, Demitra worked directly with elected officials and schools in her district to help dispel xenophobia and promote acceptance of all refugees.
Demitra’s passion for gender equity is rooted in her pride for the women in her family, and she feels an immense honour to be the first woman of her lineage to have an opportunity to pursue higher education, to meet her professional goals, and to devote her career to the causes that hold such high importance in her life’s goals. She believes fully that gender equity is an indispensable, fundamental aspect of all forms and measures of development, and looks forward to being a passionate advocate for women’s empowerment as she continues her educational and professional career in gender development.
Demitra is honoured to be a part of such an inspiring and diverse delegation of like-minded individuals to the 65th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women, all united in the goal of uncovering and implementing intersectional approaches to the empowerment of women and girls. She hopes to continue learning and practicing intersectional, gender-based approaches to development, and further continue international efforts to Leave No One Behind.
Vanessa Sterling is VIDEA’s Indigenous Youth Facilitator. Vanessa is passionate about helping build a sustainable future for our Indigenous youth and partners overseas. Vanessa, who is from Simpcw First Nation in Barriere and a past VIDEA IAYI intern, thrives on being a life-long learner. Vanessa loves participating in training to better her education and believes that education makes her family and community stronger. Vanessa’s most recent certification was becoming a First Responder in her community. Vanessa coordinates some of VIDEA’s youth work in the Okanagan region, and plays other fabulous roles in our team. In non-COVID times, Vanessa is one of our IAYI Community-Supported Cohort, Indigenous Youth support people, set to accompany Indigenous interns on their journeys to Zambia and Uganda. Vanessa is passionate about gender equality because peoples’ rights, responsibilities, and opportunities shouldn’t depend on their gender. Her hopes would be to learn how to effectively empower women and get involved for future generations.
A proud member of BCCIC, Cathy Sturgeon works for the International Development Research Centre, is a trilingual international development practitioner, and a leadership consultant. Most recently, Cathy brought her abilities and passion to a Canada-based NGO with a mission to improve the opportunities, environment, and health of millions of individuals across the globe working in artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM). Cathy is particularly interested in the 5 million or so women working in this mostly informal sector globally, often confined to low paying jobs, under the pressure of harmful customs, practices, and beliefs, and frequently absent from government structures, decision-making, and leadership. Working with cross-disciplinary teams of experts on health, environment, gender, supply-chains, and mining engineers, Cathy led the implementation of multi-year projects in ASGM, such as the Global Environment Facility’s PlanetGold programme in Burkina Faso, a German Corporation for International Cooperation funded project in Guinea, and a US Department of State funded project in Peru, where she had the privilege to work alongside women in rural communities in artisanal mining. In 2019, Cathy has attended the Women Deliver Conference in Vancouver, the OECD’s 13th Forum on Responsible Mineral Supply Chains in Paris, and the Third meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Minamata Convention on Mercury in Geneva, where she advocated for the integration of gender and human rights into mineral sector initiatives, gender-responsive due-diligence in mineral supply chain, and the use of gender impact assessments in artisanal and small-scale mining.
Cathy has completed a Master of Arts in Leadership degree at Royal Roads University in addition to her B.Com in International Management and B.A. in Spanish Literature degrees from the University of Ottawa. She had the good fortune of completing portions of her undergraduate degrees in Spain, Mexico, and Australia. Cathy is anticipating the start of her doctoral research in the Fall of 2021 to explore cross-sector partnerships between transnational corporate actors and women’s rights organizations in activities framed as ‘empowering women economically’ and in global supply chains in West Africa. The study will examine how partnerships can facilitate a gender transformative model of empowerment that includes social and political empowerment.
Cathy is excited at the opportunity to participate in the 65th Session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women and learn alongside fellow delegates and the global community of passionate individuals committed to ‘leaving no one behind’. She hopes to engage in meaningful conversations on gender equality, the empowerment of women and girls with an intersectional gender lens, and the extent to which cross-sector partnerships can close the gender equality gaps with transformative actions. She is also curious about the extent to which civil society organizations influence the global policy framework on gender equality.
Taleetha Tait is one of VIDEA’s IAYI Project Coordinators, based in Zambia. Taleetha is Wet’suwet’en and Gitxsan from Witset BC, born into the Tsayu/Beaver Clan. Taleetha joins VIDEA from the Fraser Region Aboriginal Friendship Centre Association where she was an Indigenous Youth Connections Worker. Taleetha is a former IndigenEYEZ Facilitator with the BC Government Aboriginal Youth Intern Program and former VIDEA IAYI intern. Taleetha is passionate about Indigenous and African American rights – coming from two ancestries that have deep rooted histories of injustice. Taleetha is passionate about the internationality of gender equality, Indigenous women’s liberation, decolonizing gender in Indigenous communities, embracing Two-Spirit people, bringing back matriarchal societies, Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, and the ongoing work Canada has to do when it comes to gender equality.
Lynn Thornton has been the Executive Director of VIDEA for the past 18 years. Before moving to Canada and taking up this role, Lynn worked at Greenpeace UK, and ActionAid UK. Lynn lives in Victoria, with her partner Kris and an opinionated chocolate lab – Casey. Lynn has two sons – Adan, a pilot who lives in Winnipeg, and Dylan, a kinesiology student at Dalhousie University in Halifax. Lynn is passionate about working to achieve universal human rights and about actions that empower youth to lead global development. Lynn is the co-Chair of the British Columbia Council for International Cooperation, and a Board member with the environmental school in Victoria, Oak and Orca Bioregional School. Lynn hopes to see the CSW65 prioritize a decolonized approach to gender equality, and centre the voices of Indigenous women and girls.
Dina is from Toronto, Ontario. She has been working as a development practitioner for the last 6 years and is currently working as an independent Project Management Consultant and GESI Specialist.
She holds two post-graduate degrees: an MA in International Law & Human Rights from the UN mandated University for Peace, and an MA in Management for Development from the Turin School of Development (ITC-ILO). She also has three specialist certifications in: Business & Human Rights, and Advanced Gender Mainstreaming from the Human Rights Education Association; and advanced MEAL DPro from Humentum.
Much of her work over the last two years has involved supporting the Gender Development Association in Laos. Their projects focus on rights literacy, SRHR, women’s economic empowerment, political participation, and climate change adaptation for both urban and rural/remote ethnic minority women. She also works to elevate the visibility and capacity of civil society, not only in Laos but across South East Asia.
She is an out-going person who enjoys an active lifestyle. “I look for any excuse to travel (circa 2019) and have a deep love for all things food-related. I am very grateful to the BCCIC for the opportunity once again to join this year’s delegation.”
Deena Watson is a proud member of Mistawasis Nêhiyawak located on Treaty 6 territory. She is VIDEA’s Project Officer and a current student at the University of Victoria majoring in Indigenous Studies and Social Justice Studies. Deena is also a former International Aboriginal Youth Intern where she was placed at a non-profit organization in Uganda for four months to gain knowledge on global human rights and promote gender equality. She is a strong advocate for Indigenous women and girls and supports the intersectional theory of Indigenous feminisms that practices decolonization, Indigenous sovereignty, and human rights for Indigenous women and their families.
Kusum Wijesekera currently works in the construction industry as a Commissioning Specialist. She is also presently working with BCCIC on developing one of Canada’s first Voluntary Local Reviews (VLR), measuring the progress of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) in the community of Kelowna, B.C. She hopes this VLR will provide a guide and encourage other communities to develop similar VLRs, advocating and supporting progress for all marginalized groups. As an Engineers Without Borders Fellow, she worked in Ghana trying to address food insecurity through edible insect farming. As a registered Project Management Professional (PMP), while in Ghana, she mentored both women and men in developing project management skills and continues to do so today. Prior to that, Kusum was the Chair of GECCO, a Chapter of BCCIC working to support sustainable local and global change using the SDGs as a framework. She has served as Director of Programs and Vice-President for Her International, an organization facilitating community development in Nepal and Canada by empowering women and girls through education via programs such as scholarship and micro-credit. She has also been involved with One Billion Stronger, an international photo campaign aimed at bringing awareness and initiating a dialogue around gender-based violence. Finally, as a former Aerospace Engineering graduate, Kusum has worked tirelessly to encourage more women to get into this historically male-dominated field. Kusum is excited to be able to participate at CSW65 and learn from fellow delegates new approaches to progressing and improving gender-equity!
Sophia is the Founder & Executive Director of Threading Change, a youth-led ethical fashion organization working at the intersections of climate, gender, and racial justice in alignment with the necessary transition to a circular economy. Threading Change was born because Sophia wanted to help raise young people’s voices in one of our world’s most polluting industries—the fashion industry. Doing so for our planet, and people. Fun fact, Sophia was actually inspired to start Threading Change after attending COP25 with BCCIC! “So, being a part of a BCCIC delegation is an experience that I cherish and hold very dear to my heart.”
Being a BIPOC women-led organization, gender equality and the eradication of violence against women are very important to Threading Change. They operate on the 6Fs principles: a Feminist Fossil Fuel Free Fashion Future. Sophia is very excited to be a part of BCCIC’s CSW65 delegation because she strongly believes that any knowledge she picks up at CSW65 will be immensely helpful to her and Threading Change’s growth.
As a dedicated climate justice changemaker, Sophia has worked for over a dozen environmental organizations ranging from federal government agencies (Parks Canada, Natural Resources Canada), NGOs (Nature Conservancy of Canada, SPEC, Parkbus, CityHive), industry (CNRL), and academia (UBC, SFU). Sophia has a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of British Columbia in the Natural Resources Conservation program.
Sophia is the recipient of the Starfish Canada’s Top 25 Under 25 Environmentalists award in 2017 and 2018 for her work in community engagement and renewable energy dialogues, has attended the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 24 & 25) twice with BCCIC, and DJs as ‘THIS IS: KALEIDO’ when the weight of the world gets too heavy. To her, music and social impact are the answers!
Miranda Yates is VIDEA’s Inclusion Officer, focusing on identifying ways to engage differently-abled youth on global issues. She is also an Art History and Drama student at the University of Victoria in Victoria, BC. Miranda is invested in indigenous rights, improving living conditions in indigenous communities, and raising awareness about injustices. She is excited to learn more about global issues and how we can come together to help these issues. Miranda is an athlete who loves cheerleading, baseball, basketball and wrestling.