BY ALYSSA MAHADEO
Elevate, Connect, Empower, and Ignite. These four structural pillars supported one of the biggest events in Canada recognizing the accomplishments of Black Women this past weekend. The level of positive energy was overwhelming over the course of two days, as some of the most influential women from within the community came together to share, inspire and empower other young women to do whatever it takes to make a difference, leave an impact and become exceptional female leaders of tomorrow.
The Canadian International Black Women Event (CIBWE) organized and hosted by Rose Cathy Handy is a unique awards show, nurtured through a bond shared by Rose and her late sister Ester Handy. Rose immigrated to Canada in 1993, and struggled to make her way in a country where the Black Women’s stigma, being unemployed and living on social assistance, was a burden to the economy. Years later rising to the challenge and pushing through those barriers Rose became the CEO of H.E.R. Consulting and Services Inc., offering her expertise and personal perspective on development, empowerment and career building. In 2010 she learned that her little sister had passed away and so she travelled back to her home country of Cameroon only to discover the selfless work her sister had done during her short life.
Esther was a nurse who dedicated her life in helping HIV positive pregnant women deliver their babies with dignity and support. As they were often abandoned and alone because of their medical condition, even the medical staff would stay away for the fear of contracting the HIV Virus. In her selfless work she contracted the HIV Virus herself that claimed her life yet, through it all she never hesitated to use her small salary to help the children, buy them clothes and make sure they went to school.
Upon returning to Canada, Rose did some introspection into her own life, realizing that there was much she hadn’t known about her sister and also so much more that could be done for the black female immigrant in Canada. She had come so far in her own journey that it was only fair to organize an event where all of these women could come together and their stories could be highlighted and showcased on an international scale. The Canadian International Black Women Event was established and this celebration would also be used as a way to not only recognize these brilliant women, but also celebrate her sister and contribute to the cause she dedicated her life to.
Now in it’s second year The CIBWE was held at the Novotel in Mississauga with two full days of panels and discussions hosted by women for women. The panels comprised of women in the community who are considered experts in the matters of business and success, health, finances, faith, girlhood, influences, love and persona. Altogether there were six exciting and high-energy panels with thirty powerful and influential presenters, with women who have fought the brave battles of dealing with personal challenges and difficult situations, while overcoming their stigma and breaking the cycle to become valiant role models for the next generation of woman.
Women and men from within the community gathered for these exceptional panel discussions, listening to the powerful stories of the trials and tribulations of black women in Canada. Presenters included black men and women from the community who have invested in themselves to become doctors, lawyers, managers, ministers, lawyers, politicians, public servants, business owners, engineers, community advocates, entrepreneurs and accomplished leaders here in Canada.
Each day was kick started with a special feature presentation celebrating community advocates for their leadership involvement or wisdom, bridging the gap between generations connecting with one another and rejoicing in the diversity within.
Throughout the day women discussed the topics to be addressed and moderated by each panel, allowing for brief but insightful tidbits of knowledge for the crowd. Questions were straight and to the point, providing advice and understanding for everyone involved. Attendees were encouraged to mix and mingle with the other guests and panelists, networking, connecting and sharing ideas that offered tools to help build in their future.
To end the two-day event an evening gala celebrating ‘the rise of our own’ recognizing The Top Black Women to Watch in 2016 was held in honor of those women who are working hard, dedicating their time to strengthening their families, communities, and corporations. Their compassion, humility, forgiveness, and connectedness in the community is what drives their passion and ignites their flame to make a difference and change the world.
This amazing and empowering event put on by Rose Cathy Handy was in support of The Esther Handy children’s fund, a special initiative to raise funds to support the education of young girls in Canada and Cameroon. This project aims to offer leadership training to young black girls in Canada and support for tuition fees or girls in Cameroon. The goal this year is to send thirty to fifty children to school, who are orphans or from less fortunate families.
Keep your eye on the horizon and watch out for those women to watch in the next year, these women know what they want, they are strong, successful, and understand exactly who they are. These brilliant women are sure to move mountains in the future. Take action and find your purpose!