One of the highlights for me in 2015 was meeting this amazing woman, Rima Aristocrat, at my son’s graduation from Willis College. He had spoken to me about her before I met her, and would say things to me like, ‘Mom, I have never been to a school where there is so much love! Rima comes into our classroom and chats with us about everything!” When I met her, I understood his respect for her because she is a remarkable woman who is very humble even though she has achieved great things in life! She has received numerous awards for her contribution to education, including recognition in the Who’s Who of Canadian Women, named as one of Ottawa’s 100 most influential leaders, listed among 2000 of the world’s respected individuals by Who’s Who in the 21st Century. Read more about Rima here.
Rima was the Honorary Chair of the 2015 Gala for Immigrant Women Services Ottawa. She accepted the role with great humility and delivered a very strong address to the audience to end violence against women. Here is her speech in full which I think makes a great read.
“Before I begin, let me ask you to take a moment, look around, make eye contact with every person at your table. Every person you see at your table has special role to play in eliminating all types of abuse against women and children.
Let me ask you this? What is your role!
And thank you all for joining us tonight for the 2015 Immigrant Women Services Ottawa Roses and Candles Gala.
I am truly honored to be the Honorary Chair of this year’s gala.
Now, Look around you, I know that you are surrounded by the family and friends who are serious about issue of women, children and abuse.
This year, the IWSO Gala falls right within the time of the 16 days to end violence against women.
I would like to applaud Immigrant Women Services Ottawa (IWSO) for being that beacon of light in the community for immigrant women and their children. I am humbled and privileged to express my gratitude to IWSO for selecting me to be the Honorary Chair for the 2015 Gala.
- I would like thank The Chair Magdalene Cooman and members of the Board of Directors of IWSO;
- The Executive Director, Lucya Spencer; The Acting Executive Director, Mercy Lawluvi; staff of IWSO, funders, clients, supporters and YOU, all of YOU – thank you!
And now, allow me to share FACTS provided from the United Nations on the 16 days to end violence against women:
- A staggering one in three women have experienced physical or sexual violence in their lifetime—a pandemic of global proportions.
- Unlike an illness; however, perpetrators and even entire societies choose to commit violence against women.
- They can make the choice to stop!
- Violence against women is not unavoidable – it can be prevented.
- But it’s not as straightforward as eliminating a virus.
- There is no vaccine, or medication for a cure.
- And there is no one single reason for why it happens.
- As such, prevention strategies should be holistic, with multiple interventions undertaken in parallel, in order to have long-lasting and permanent effects.
- Many sectors, actors and stakeholders need to be engaged.
- More evidence is emerging on what interventions work to prevent violence —from community mobilization to change social norms, to comprehensive school interventions targeting staff and pupils, to economic empowerment and income supplements coupled with gender equality training.
(Rima and Lucya Spencer, Executive Director of IWSO)
Prevention is the 2015 theme of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and the UNiTE to End Violence against Women Campaign’s 16 days call for action!
This year’s official commemoration at the UN Headquarters in New York, is where the first UN Framework on Preventing Violence against Women will be launched and discussed.
- The framework develops a common understanding for the UN System, policymakers and other stakeholders on preventing violence against women and provides a theory of change to underpin action.
“16 days to “Orange the world”
“Orange the world,” invites you to organize events to decorate your streets, schools and landmarks in orange to symbolize a brighter future without violence.
- Tonight, I am proud to announce that all three Willis College campuses, Ottawa, Smiths Falls and Arnprior are coloured in Orange and will be until December 10th.
- We are organizing fundraising events for this worthy cause and 100% will be donated to IWSO.
Immigrant Women Services Ottawa has made a huge difference in the lives of countless immigrant women!
They have been removing barriers in the everyday lives of newcomers to Canada who are going through the settlement and integration process including survivors of violence — women who want to take back control of their lives.
(Rima above with one of the staff from IWSO)
Immigrant Women Services Ottawa is a community based agency serving immigrant and visible minority women. They create opportunities for women as they integrate into a new society, rebuild their lives free of violence and achieve their personal goals. Every year, over 2000 women and children are helped by IWSO’s dedicated staff and volunteers.
I would like to quote Isabell Allende here:
“Women have always been courageous… They are always fearless when protecting their children and in the last century, they have been fearless in the fight for their rights.”
(Above – Magdalene Cooman, Chair of IWSO Board, Kim Rudd, MP for Northumberlnad, Peterborough South, Sandra Tislot, MC for IWSO Gala and Mercy Lawluvi, Acting Executive Director)
Immigrant Women Services Ottawa provides a place of nurturing, listening ears, child-care, translation, crisis counselling, housing support…all the vital services that women and their children who are faced with challenging situations most desperately need… and now can have that welcoming place for support and encouragement.
I was born in Georgia, former USSR, I was one of three daughters raised by a remarkable mother and grandmother who became my mentor. In fact, the July 2015 issue of Mags Magazine wrote an article about my grandmother. Imagine a 60 year old woman becoming a medical doctor back in the early 1900s. This was the my grandmother’s way to showing me that it’s never too late to achieve your dreams.
In 1974, I immigrated to Toronto, Canada to start a new life. Blessed with four beautiful daughters, four granddaughters, one grandson, I, too, have worked hard, learned many things along life’s path, met many amazing women from around the world all which have shaped me, my mission in life.
It was in Toronto where I established the Canadian Association of Immigrant Professionals organization.
I have had opportunities to work with abused women and women on social assistance before arriving to Ottawa.
In 1998, I became the first immigrant woman to lead Willis College.
As the President and CEO of this 120 years old establishment, I have developed many best practices models in skills training,opened Willis College campuses in Smith Falls and Anrpior, established sister-city partnerships, founded TeKnoWave Inc., created Canada’s first national Aboriginal IT training organization and Women in IT initiative.
However, I’m most proud of the last 8 years I’ve been working with a very special program called Courage to Soar in partnership with Minwaashin Lodge that unites abused and homeless First Nation’s women.
As of today, over 120 of these women have gone through skills training at Willis College Ottawa campus with tremendous success. A couple of these graduates has even become Canadian Ambassadors to Africa.
But I would not be where I am today without the unconditional love and support of my family and friends.
Tonight, I am surrounded by my four daughters and daughter-in-law, Lali, Medea, Rima J. Michelle and Selina– Medea and Michelle arrived specially from Toronto.
I am accompanied by both colleagues and friends who have been promoting this event and who have been with me every step of my journey and who have made a huge impact in my life – thank you.
I am reminded of a quote by Cody Kennedy in Slaying Isidore’s Dragons, “Don’t try to be brave all at once. Take – it- in – steps.”
So, I offer a final ‘thank you’ to all of you here tonight for supporting IWSO and all immigrant women and children.
Your generosity and kindness will go a long way in simply looking out for women.
God bless you all!” Rima Aristocrat.
I hope that you enjoyed this! Continue to support great initiatives, work towards elimination of violence against women… live your future now by taking small actions to create positive changes in the world.
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