Celebrating Women’s Leadership

In honour of International Women’s Day (IWD) 2021 and our highlight of women’s leadership, we interviewed six women and two girls. We asked them how they got into leadership and activism, why they pursue leadership opportunities in their community and what their hopes are for a post-COVID world. We put the responses into two videos to share with you. Full bios for each individual leader are listed below.

Our first video features (in order of appearance):

Latasha Calfrobe is currently working on land protection, water protection, and protecting the niitsitapi way of life.
• Working to oppose the incoming coal mines on the Eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains which will be situated in the traditional territories of the Blackfoot Confederacy.
• Working on lobbying all levels of government to ensure that these projects are not approved and that they do not move forward without consultation and consent of First Nations people

Shelly Qian is a member of the Women Lead YYC alumni group. She joined the program after she saw a post about the program, and it got her involved in the Women’s Centre. Previously she had always driven by the centre and dropped off supplies. She loved meeting different women in the program and developing different skills.

From her involvement in Women Lead, Shelly jumped at the opportunity to lead a resume workshop for Women Lead YYC, and from there she became involved in leading employment skills workshops and employment peer support.  Being a part of this awesome group has allowed her to gain so much knowledge and community.

Shelley has always been involved in volunteering initiatives. When she moved to Calgary, she became involved in the Alberta Institute for Wildlife Conservation, and has animal handler for about 10 years. She is also on the board of directors. She is also passionate about professional growth & development, and is a mentor with the Haskayne School of Business. She has also been involved in business analysis as a volunteer for about three years. She loves being able to help organizations and people move through growth and development processes.

Sadie Vipond is a 15-year-old climate activist. She is a part of the Girl Force program at the Women’s Centre.

Penny Gunderson’s creative process involves deeply considering what matters to her and the communities she is a part of. The disabled community, being an older woman, the #metoo movement, and the resiliency and companionship of women in groups have all been catalysts in her work.

Penny works primarily in encaustic, which is molten beeswax combined with tree resin and pigment, fused to a natural base. This is a very intuitive medium since the wax reacts to the heat in many ways.

The process itself involves heating coloured beeswax on a griddle, painting with natural bristle brushes on a natural substrate, such as wood or silk, and fusing the wax to the surface through heat from a heat gun, iron, or blowtorch. Layers of wax are fused together and then revealed by scraping, carving, or melting.

Recently, she has begun to combine encaustic with fibre and stitching. When she was young, Penny did sewing and tailoring, and although she is not able to sew at that level anymore, she has embraced the slow stitching movement. With this method, slow intentional hand stitching is more important than perfect stitching. She is currently printing encaustic photographs of COVID-19-inspired artwork on natural fabrics and then combining them with fibre and stitching.

Penny is inspired by the character of the human face and figure. She works on large, deeply coloured encaustic portraits and attempts to reveal the person peering out of the face she is painting. In her recent works, combining encaustic photographs on silk or cotton she has attempted to capture the community of women as they stitch and visit together, to express the emotions triggered by chronic Illness in encaustic and fibre abstract figures presented as landscape, and to combine centrepieces of encaustic photographs depicting her COVID-19-inspired artwork into crazy quilt blocks with embroidered seams. Penny has taken encaustic portraiture workshops and figure drawing training, which has been very valuable in building her artistic process.


The second video features (in order of appearance):

Shereen Samuels has more than 20 years experience facilitating change work in the non-profit and post-secondary sectors. Shereen is a co-founder of EDIfy Inclusion, and is committed to working collaboratively and creatively across boundaries and differences in order to strengthen organizations. She also designed the Meaningful Inclusion Matrix framework for increasing meaningful workplace inclusion.

Lee Stevens is a member of the Carcross Tagish First Nation and grew up in Turner Valley, AB. She currently works as a Policy and Research Specialist at Vibrant Communities Calgary. She has a social work background and over ten years of experience working with Calgarians living in poverty, starting at the Calgary Drop-In Centre and continuing at CUPS. During her time at CUPS, she became involved with the Enough for All poverty reduction strategy and began to research and explore the root causes of poverty. As an Indigenous person, she focused much of her study on Indigenous issues and reconciliation strategies.

She describes her work as being all about challenging the status quo – the status quo being the charitable response to poverty. She sees herself as an anti-poverty activist, who, rather than just focusing on the small fixes to our current system, wants to change it, and who advocates for a more just society: where we are community minded, where we think about everyone else as if they were our family.

For her, activism is about raising awareness and encouraging others to be activists themselves – she wants them to volunteer, vote, and think critically about how to prevent poverty — and not just how to respond to it.

Noor Abuamsha is in grade 5, and is involved in the Girl Power program for girls in grades 5 and 6 at the Women’s Centre. In this program she learns about women’s rights and how women should be involved in lots of things.

Siobhán Vipond is serving her fourth term as Secretary Treasurer of the Alberta Federation of Labour, an organization of 28 unions representing more than 170,000 workers. A committed trade unionist, Vipond is a tireless advocate on occupational health and safety, women’s equality and the importance of workers’ voices at all levels of government and industry. In her pursuit of social justice and workers’ rights, Vipond has worked as the long-time coordinator of the AFL/CLC Annual Winter School and director of the AFL Kids’ Camp, passing shared values to the next generation. Under her leadership the AFL launched the Fair Start Campaign for Universal Early Childhood Education and Care in Alberta and is the driving force behind labour’s increased participation in Pride events and partnerships with like-minded groups.

Siobhan is a passionate leader who believes in the power of collective action for the common good. She is a board member for the Alberta Workers’ Health Centre, Public Interest Alberta, the Workers’ Resource Centre and the Aspen Foundation for Labour Education and a member of the National Political Action Committee of the Canadian Labour Congress. She served as the Vice Chair on the Premier’s Advisory Committee on the Economy for the previous premier.

Prior to joining the AFL, Siobhan worked as a stage and film technician and is a proud member of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), where she served as Secretary, Vice President and President of IATSE Local 210. She was elected as the CLC Delegate of the International of the IATSE in 2017. Siobhan is an alumni of the 2015 Governor General’s Canadian Leadership Conference and the Cornell University Workers Institute’s National Labour Leaders Initiative.

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