“I am a woman
Phenomenal woman
that’s me.”

Maya Angelou

As International Women’s Day approaches, at IGNITE, we found ourselves reflecting on the incredible feats achieved by women from coast to coast to coast. From boardrooms to classrooms, laboratories to legislative halls, women have been at the forefront, driving change and championing progress. It’s critical for us to recognize the efforts of these women and honour their achievements as we continue working toward a future where every woman has the opportunity to thrive.

Reflecting on these incredible efforts, we decided to put the spotlight on the efforts of women at Humber College, University of Guelph-Humber and IGNITE to showcase their achievements.

From helping students find true friendship to providing extensive resources for women in engineering, women in our community have blazed a fearless trail. They identified an opportunity to offer extra support to students on campus and took the initiative to make it happen. Here are stories of their efforts.

IGNITE’s free menstrual products

A girl gesturing to menstrual cups.

Did you know that Canadians who menstruate typically spend up to $6,000 in their lifetime on menstrual hygiene products? Additionally, the figure is much higher for those living in rural communities, and in many cultures, it’s still a taboo. On all our campuses, however, you’ll find free menstrual products provided by IGNITE in washrooms, making periods worry-free.

This incredible resource was kickstarted in 2017 by Alissa Lim, IGNITE’s then Vice-President for Lakeshore. Lim aimed to use this initiative to break down the stigma surrounding menstruation and menstrual products.  

“I wanted to create a project that would help students financially where they didn’t have to worry about having the money to cover things like hygiene products. What I also love about this project is that it breaks the stigma around periods. Seeing it launch from being an idea on a paper to becoming what it is now is absolutely amazing,” Lim said in an earlier conversation with IGNITE.

Women in Engineering Club

Female engineer oversees student testing vibrations through software.
VIA Unsplash

In Canada, information collected from regulatory bodies in 2019 suggests women comprise just 13.9% of total national engineering membership. Clearly, the data suggests there’s a long way to go for equal representation in the field. Today, in a step forward to support students at Humber College, the Women in Engineering Club stands proud. It aims to create a space where female-identifying students can connect with one another, foster mentorship opportunities, and organize events. 

The idea and impetus for the club came from Samara Ocansey, a student in the Bachelor of Engineering program. “I noticed that while there were some levels of representation, there was still a significant gap in comparison to the overall population. Witnessing this gap, I felt motivated to take action,” she notes.

“I wanted to create a space where women in engineering could find support, connect with each other, and access resources tailored to their unique experiences and challenges. Through mentorship and networking opportunities offered by the club, I hope to demonstrate to aspiring female engineers that they can succeed and make a difference in the world through engineering,” Ocansey says.

Engaging mature students

A group of students laughing together.
VIA Unsplash

Mature students have a diverse set of lived experiences and often have many common concerns when they return to academics, including finding a sense of belonging, transitioning back into an academic environment and balancing other priorities. It’s important that they find support, a sense of community and can avail resources tailored specifically to their individual needs. 

Humber’s Student Success and Engagement portfolio offers various resources that aim to create a supportive an inclusive environment for mature learners, enhancing their sense of belonging, with a universal lens.  In collaboration with other Humber departments, these projects are steered by Jacqueline Morgan, Director, Strategy, and Innovation, and Meshanda Phillips, Project Coordinator, both team members within the Office of the Dean of Students.  

Resources include the APA Essentials Workshop for students looking to excel in their academic writing, the Fireside Series where students share their journeys inside and outside the classroom, and the Sip & Chill Cafe for students to unwind between or after classes, enjoy coffee, tea, and light snacks while mingling with peers.   To catch the next events and access these resources, check out @lifeathumber on Instagram! 

“Feeling seen, heard, and considered is at the core of what it means to say, ‘representation matters.’ This project has given us the focused time to learn, inform, and broaden our existing student supports through a mature learner lens,” Morgan and Phillips say. 

Best Buddies Club

Three women laughing in step with each other.
VIA Unsplash

Best Buddies is an international program dedicated to promoting inclusivity and creating long-lasting friendships between people with and without an intellectual or developmental disability (IDD). Buddy pairs consist of a buddy (students with an IDD) matched with a peer buddy (students without an IDD). 

Upon realizing that UoGH didn’t have a chapter of Best Buddies, Lauren Abela took the initiative to reach out to Best Buddies Canada to find out how to start one. Coincidentally, Jessica Rotolo was doing the same for Humber College. Together, the two founded the UofGH and Humber North chapter of Best Buddies as an official Best Buddies chapter and IGNITE-sanctioned club. Today, they are best friends.

From movie nights, accessible learning tools, job-matching, and most importantly, fostering true friendship and belonging, the club shows the incredible impact these two women continue to have on the community. If you want to be a part of this, check out @bestbuddiesgh for more!

Get inspired

We hope these women and the incredible initiatives they began inspires you and empowers you too. Let their stories remind us that each one of us possesses the power to effect change, to challenge norms, and to shape our own destinies. Moreover, whether it’s launching a club, questioning the status quo, or championing a solution, every action, no matter how small, contributes to the larger movement and upliftment.

Therefore, to all the women out there, we urge you to embrace your passions, unleash your potential, and dare to dream big. Remember that we’re always here to support and hear your ideas, period!

Feature photo by Antonino Visalli on Unsplash

Are you curious about other resources on campus? Check out our curated list of campus services you didn’t know about!

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