Embrace Equity with Brescia’s International Women’s Day Panel
For Brescia’s sixth annual Dr. Colleen Hanycz Leadership Lecture, Brescia united a panel of five community leading women to create an event that is
truly emblematic of this year’s theme, “Embracing Equity”.
As an organization dedicated to empowering and uplifting women, we are acutely aware
current progress does not represent all women. Members of equity-deserving communities
continue to be left out of decision-making processes and excluded from the spaces
they deserve to take up. To ensure our gender equity efforts are reflective of the
people we aim to serve, we will step back and welcome distinct voices to the forefront
of Brescia’s International Women’s Day movement.
On March 8, Brescia welcomed the following five panelists to our Mercato to address difficult
issues relating to intersectional feminism, including compounding bias, self-agency
and women’s resilience.
- Sara Asalya: Executive Director of Newcomer Women’s Services and winner of Canada’s 25 Women of
- Bonnie DePaul: Mental health advocate for the LGBTQ+ community & certified by Dr. Brené Brown as
a Dare to Lead™ Facilitator
- Dr. Yvonne Asare-Bediako: Brescia Faculty Member; Black Community Advisor for the City of London; and leader
of our Anti-Racism Working Group
- Mojdeh Cox: Previous President and CEO within the non-profit sector and internationally published
speaker on radical accountability, human rights and equity, diversity & inclusion
- Alizabeth George Antone: Indigenous Community Advisor for the City of London; member of the Oneida Nation
Chief and Council; and Professor with a specialization in Indigenous culture, leadership
and social justice
Learn more about our amazing panelists – cross-sector leaders, award-winners and courageous equity
Our Brilliant Moderator
Roula Hawa, PhD, MSc, MPH, BEd, OCT, PHEc
Dr. Roula Hawa is an Assistant Professor in Family Studies and Human Development at Brescia. She received her PhD in Leadership, Higher and Adult
Education at OISE, the University of Toronto. Roula’s background includes over 15
years of teaching, leadership experience and curriculum development. She is also the
recipient of the 2020 Adelaide Hoodless Award for Excellence in Family Studies Education
A racialized immigrant woman, Roula is a passionate educator and researcher who brings
a deep commitment to social justice and an interest in mobilizing research and innovating
university-community partnerships. Her research is supported by the Canadian Institutes
of Health Research, Canadian Foundation for AIDS Research, and CIHR Canadian HIV Trials
Network, and engages communities using critical feminist, anti-colonial and anti-oppression
frameworks to inform equitable and culturally relevant practice and policy. Roula
brings vast educational and community leadership, including serving on a number of
committees such as the London Homeless Coalition and Women's Priority Working Group
Brescia’s mission has always been to raise up women who lead with wisdom, justice
and compassion in our changing world. As an institution, we have a lot to learn, but
one thing we are certain of is that we cannot really embrace equity if we do not purposefully
and energetically seek wisdom from beyond our campus. We encourage our broader community
to join us on this momentous day to honour and embrace diverse voices and learn how
we can more fully support the attainment of equity that represents all people, rather
than a select few.
6:00 p.m. - Doors Open
7:00 p.m. - Welcome by Dr. Lauretta Frederking, President of Brescia at Western University
7:05 p.m. - The panel, moderated by Dr. Roula Hawa, will begin
8:00 p.m. - We will welcome questions from community
Throughout the evening, refreshments were provided.
Registration was free, but the persistence of socioeconomic barriers to education is costly – to our students
and society more broadly
Hard work rather than circumstance should dictate success. However, complex systems
and deep-seated biases create significant barriers to equity-deserving individuals,
as they pursue educational and professional growth. While money cannot address many
facets of systemic discrimination, financial limitations are the top cited reason
young people do not apply for or successfully remain enrolled in university. Socioeconomic
status is proven to be one of the biggest indicators of educational attainment, dropout
rates and student success.
These profound effects are experienced by students from historically-marginalized
backgrounds at a higher rate, which contributes to the fact there remains a significant
gap between the number of non-Indigenous (30%) and Indigenous university graduates
(11%). Additionally, systemic socioeconomic discrimination shows itself in the reality
that Black students are more than twice as likely to report being unable to pay their
university loans than their white counterparts.
To ensure talent aligns with opportunity, we ask attendees to our International Women’s
Day to consider making a gift towards Brescia’s highest priority needs Scholarship
Fund. Your donation will allow for students from every walk of life to attain a life-enriching
education, without being held back by circumstances beyond their control.
Our goal is to raise five scholarships (at $5,000 each), emblematic of our five phenomenal
These scholarships will go towards highest priority needs.
How do scholarships contribute to our ability to authentically Embrace Equity?
"Equality is not about making everyone the same. It’s about providing supports that
align with individual gifts and circumstances. Brescia’s donors enhance access to
opportunity and dismantle financial barriers to success. They are the reasons people
who never saw themselves going places now not only get by but thrive."
Asma Musa '24. Honours Specialization, Food & Nutritional Sciences
Our Amazing Panelists
Born and raised in a war-torn country, Sara Asalya witnessed first-hand the impact
of violence, displacement and trauma on the lives of refugees. This guides her work
as an award-winning leader and human rights advocate. Sara has more than 15 years
of experience working internationally and in Canada in various sectors. She is now
the Executive Director of Newcomer Women's Services Toronto (NEW). This multi-service
not-for-profit operates in two Toronto locations serving thousands of Immigrants and
Sara is also the Founder and former Executive Director of The Newcomer Students’ Association,
a national not-for-profit organization working at the intersection of migration, education
and social justice. She has received many awards for being a champion for immigrants'
rights and for her dedication to advancing their economic resilience, civic and political
engagement. Some of these accolades include being recognized as one of Canada’s Top
25 Immigrants in 2018 and one of Canada’s Top 25 Women of Influence in 2021.
Bonnie DePaul has 20 years of formal leadership experience in the health and social
service sector. She has a Masters in Education in Leadership and Adult learning and
is Certified by Dr. Brené Brown as a Dare to Lead™ Facilitator. Bonnie is passionate
about living authentically and shares openly about her journey of coming out as a
queer woman and mother and the mental health struggles she has experienced navigating
the oppressive systems within which we live and operate. Bonnie leads by choosing
courage over comfort and taking steps towards growth and expansion. She supports individuals,
teams and organizations to understand and explore their call to courage.
Bonnie is an inclusive facilitator and an authentic communicator who works hard to
dismantle systems of oppression. Bonnie believes when truly inclusive collaboration
takes place, magic can happen. Her aim is to create that magic at every level of organizations
and community by fostering cultures of daring leadership where authentic conversations
are fueled by knowing oneself and abandoning the judgement of others.
Dr. Yvonne Asare-Bediako
Dr. Yvonne Asare-Bediako is a brilliant educator and researcher with over 15 years
of experience working across academic and community settings. She holds a Doctor of
Philosophy in Sociology, with expertise in social inequality and health. She currently
works as the Black Community Liaison Advisor for the City of London and is a valued
faculty member at Brescia. She has worked within our university for six years and
formally led antiracism work across campus for the past three.
An immigrant and racialized woman with a strong understanding of the consequences
of health, social and service inequities, Yvonne is intentional in her work with racialized
persons and has led several innovative projects that enhance their psychosocial wellbeing.
She develops and adapts evidence-based programs for racialized persons and leads non-profit
and city-wide efforts to enhance health and social outcomes for Black persons.
Mojdeh Cox is an impact and results oriented community builder and leader. Her dynamic
10+ years of experience working in co-visioning, co-designing, executing issue-based
advocacy campaigns, and coaching leaders across all sectors on re-imagining their
work through a strategic and heightened equity lens have equipped her with the knowledge
and practices required to bring people together. Mojdehbelieves that a supportive,
inspiring workplace culture where there are shared values and goals is how cross-functional
teams thrive. Her unique gifts and ability to implement complex projects have been
instrumental in raising the profiles of municipal, provincial and federal campaigns,
while building community along the way.
At a time when organizations look to contribute to the dismantling of systemic barriers,
Mojdeh brings forward expertise in labour relations, human rights, and equity, diversity,
inclusion and belonging. She knows how to bring people together to have challenging
conversations. Mojdeh speaks, writes and provides media commentary on local, national
and international issues. Most recently, her thought leadership on radical accountability
has been nationally recognized in her tenure as President and CEO in the nonprofit
Alizabeth George-Antone is the Indigenous Community Liaison Advisor of the City of
London Anti-Oppression unit. Born and raised in Oneida, Alizabeth is a passionate
educator who works tirelessly to restore Indigenous Education and language. Through
her advocacy and prioritization of relationship building, she is helping to foster
more positive collaborations between Indigenous communities and the City of London.
Alizabeth has a Master’s Degree in Indigenous education and leadership, and she has
taught at the post-secondary level about Indigenous culture, equity and social justice.
She is a courageous and essential role model for the young people she supports and
a bridge builder between newcomer populations and Indigenous communities. Aside from
being an inspiring source of wisdom and passionate activist, she was elected to Oneida
Chief and Council in 2020. She is now serving her second term and holds dear to her
heart the implementation of Truth and Reconciliation that we must all live by and