Indigenous Women in Community Leadership (IWCL)


Coady’s program empowers indigenous women

Some from almost 5,000 kilometres away and closer, Coady Institutes’ Indigenous Women in Community Leadership program welcomes indigenous women from all over the country for the start of the seventh year of their IWCL program (pronounced E-wickl, as I was told).

Aimed at bringing indigenous women together from all over Canada to share knowledge, experiences, and expertise from their respective communities and lives, The Xaverian Weekly was fortunate enough to speak with two members of the IWCL. Some from remote and rural communities, and others from urban communities. In either case, what binds them together is a shared purpose of serving their community of indigenous people and a desire to see the people in their communities succeed, find their inner strength, find their identities, and to rise to the challenges of the modern world. T

he Xaverian Weekly spoke with two women involved in the IWCL program this year. Both of them are not only new to the program (last week was their first week in the Program), but new to Antigonish as well. Both women already take on the roles of leadership in their communities, and are seeking to build on their knowledge with personal and professional knowledge.

Bobbi Rose is the founder of a program for young people in her community, of Fort MacPherson in the Northwest Territories, that trains and educates for leadership opportunities, she is also an outdoor educator. Shannon Kraichy is Métis and Anishinaabekwe leader focusing on providing support and safe spaces for LGBTQ and Two-Spirited youth in her community of Winnipeg, Manitoba, as part of an organization, called the Butterfly Club.

Being so distant from Antigonish, I asked both of them how they found out about a small program in Eastern Canada. Both replied, easily, “Facebook.” For Bobbi she discovered it through a friend, and Shannon through a group, Opportunities First Nations Manitoba, where it was posted. For an opportunity like this, a program designed for First Nations women, it would have been “ridiculous” to pass up the opportunity, Shannon said.

For Bobbi, much of the same. Being able to travel from Northwest Territories to Antigonish to attend a program designed for women like her was a “great opportunity,” and considering the whole program as well as living costs are funded by a wide array of donors, it makes the program available to women from anywhere in Canada regardless of their economic ability, and allows them to focus on the most important parts of the IWCL program; creating new relationships, being present, and sharing knowledge. Both agreed that they believed the program was unique, in it’s focus on indigenous issues, for indigenous women, with an indigenous perspective.

Their comments about the program and the networking and relationships they’ve made in such a short span of time, were almost effusive, and that through IWCL and Coady they began to discover even more resources and opportunities for them and their community.

While the program has only just begun, and is a relatively short program, starting at a distance, coming to Antigonish for October, and ending in their respective communities in January; the impacts of connecting with fellow indigenous women are felt immediately.

Photo: Facebook @CoadyInternationalInstitute

Photo: Facebook @CoadyInternationalInstitute

Both Shannon and Bobbi were quick to praise the format of the IWCL. One their first few days together the women take part in intensive team-building exercises, like building a teepee over and over again, until they could do it easily and quickly.

Once built, the inside of the teepee housed the artwork of previous students. Although Bobbi is from a remote and rural community and Shannon from an urban community, both agreed that every woman in the program bring something important to contribute and share with the others.

Facilitated by the leaders of the program, the women are able to connect with each other, person-to-person and discuss a wide array of successes, ideas, challenges, and hope.

Shannon felt that it “was empowering to come [to Antigonish] and have space to work on change and bring it back” to their home communities where their shared knowledge and skills can be put to use in incredibly powerful and effective ways.

Thinking about what they expect to return home with; both were passionate about their hope that with their new shared knowledges they would be able to help, support, and inspire the youth of their communities to succeed. For Bobbi, it was about helping youth in the far north of Fort MacPherson find and seize opportunities in their remote town. For Shannon, it was about helping urban youth reconnect with their indigenous and cultural identities and heritages.