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Aboriginal Youth Write About What Women’s Leadership Means to Them

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Out of more than 100 submissions, 10 aboriginal women were recognized by Women’s Worlds 2011, a global feminist conference taking place in Ottawa-Gatineau, Canada from July 3 to 7. Their works depicted what aboriginal women's leadership means to them.

The three grand prize winners will get an all-expense paid trip to the conference—the largest gathering of women from around the world in Canadian history.

The grand prize winners include:

  • Tanis Desjarlais, a 22-year-old First Nations filmmaker whose piece Caught Between Worlds is a somber exploration of being an urban Cree struggling with sobriety. The piece points out that sobriety has disconnected her from her traditions and that “[v]isual art, media art, being honest and real, in my opinion, can and will heal the Indigenous People of Canada.”
  • Hayley Moody, a 19-7ear-old Métis undergraduate student, won for a speech she wrote titled Where Are Your Women. In it, she argues “[w]omen’s aboriginal leadership is about working together—all women working together—to create awareness and change in our globalized world. It’s about learning from one another’s stories and having the empowerment to change existing boundaries. It’s about joining together.”
  • Naiomie Akavak, is a 24-year-old Inuk with cerebral palsy, who won for her essay titled “What Does Aboriginal Women’s Leadership Mean to Me.” In it, she wrote: “[e]ven though I struggle every day to speak, I want to be a voice for others to learn from. I want to send out a message that I care and that together we can make Nunavut safe for everyone.”

The seven runners up and what they won for are:

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  • Josephine O’Brien, First Nations, essay
  • Natasha Kanape Fontaine, Innu, visual art
  • Kristen Bos, Métis, essay
  • Kailey Arreak, Inuk, essay
  • Hanako Nagao, Métis, photo
  • Monica Auger, Métis, essay
  • Naomi Sayers, First Nations, essay

According to a press release, Women’s Worlds 2011 “will be a powerful celebration of voices and diversity. As Canada is host to this important event, the meaningful participation of aboriginal women and the prominence of indigenous women’s issues are essential.”

This is why the Aboriginal Women’s Leadership Circle is collaborating on the event; to ensure indigenous voices are heard. An indigenous women’s welcoming gathering will be held July 3 from 4 to 6 p.m. on Victoria Island in Ottawa and will end with everyone walking to the official opening ceremony at the Museum of Civilization in Gattineau.

One of the keynote speakers will be Mary Simon, president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, who recently became the first Inuk inducted into the International Women’s Forum.

For more information on the conference, view the full event program on the Women’s Worlds 2011 website.