One year into a global pandemic, as our communities look for opportunities for connection, Lady Eaton College brought together advocates to learn how they stay engaged in their work while combatting indifference, discrimination, and burnout in this year’s Marjory Seeley Women in Leadership Luncheon.
The annual event, held virtually for the first time this year, commemorates the College's founding principal, Marjory Seeley-Rogers, and brings together students, faculty, staff and community members alike to acknowledge and celebrate female leadership. The luncheon is an opportunity for students to listen to panelists speak about a topic related to women in leadership, followed by lunch (delivered to students by local business By the Bridge) and breakout room discussions.
This year, the event became even more than just a luncheon: it was an opportunity for people to connect with their community in a time when connecting has been made difficult through physical distancing.
A time for connection
“We heard from our audience about how much it meant to them to join the discussion and engage with our panelists,” said Alicia Yon, Lady Eaton College ambassador and fourth-year Social Work student. “One community member relayed to us that they, enjoyed seeing women speaking to issues that affect us all and being empowered, especially during COVID.”
The organizers chose the theme Women in Health: Collective Growth and Healing this year, in response to the dialogue surrounding health during the pandemic and how we all have a role in contributing to each other’s well-being as a society. The three panelists —Dr. Alma Barranco-Mendoza, Ethel Nalule, and Lisa Trefzger Clarke— each spoke about their experiences navigating health challenges while doing advocacy work in addition to the burnout and fatigue that can accompany the advocacy itself.
Advocacy and health
Dr. Barranco-Mendoza, an LEC alumna and co-founder and CEO of Infogenetica Solutions Ltd., shared her research on computational biomolecular modelling and learning technologies for people with autism. Ms. Nalule, a fourth-year Lady Eaton College student in Forensic Science and Psychology spoke about her experience as a Lyme disease activist and the uphill battle of challenging positions of power to take action, all while feeling the debilitating effects of the disease. Ms. Trefzger Clarke, an anti gender-based violence educator, stressed the importance of taking an intersectional, feminist approach to health activism and shared examples of her work in the local community, including her tenure as executive director of the Kawartha Sexual Assault Centre.
While the panelists all spoke about different health issues, each stressed the importance of taking care of their own mental and physical wellbeing as activists. “Change is such a heavy word,” said Ms. Nalule. “All advocacy work is political and confronting power can really bring you down. Take time, reflect, take a year off if you need to.”
The panelists’ stories of strength and vulnerability demonstrated that women are often expected to take on care work without warning or compensation, especially in times of uncertainty, like we are experiencing now.
“When we break it down, care work is done in service of others. It is selfless and is driven by genuine connection and relations,” said Ms. Yon. “Our speakers reminded us that caring for oneself is a radical act of self and collective love.”
Watch the panel discussion from the 2021 Marjory Seeley Women in Leadership Luncheon.
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