By RON FANFAIR
More than gender parity, women deserve the highest recognition, Rev. Karen Redwood said in her keynote presentation at the Jamaican Canadian Association (JCA) women’s committee 16th annual International Women’s Day (IWD) celebration last Sunday.
“They are the hands that rock the cradle and rule the world,” she said. “We are a phenomenal species that are created for the long haul and a force to be reckoned with.”
A graduate of Jamaica’s Bethel Bible College, Redwood and her five siblings were raised by a single mother – Dulcie Grant – who turns 63 next week.
“When you talk about tenacity and strength, she exhibited those qualities,” said Redwood who is a registered psychotherapist with the College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario. “She firmly believes that every woman should find the strength in her to survive on her own just in case they don’t have the support of a male partner. Not a single male in her life stood with her for the long haul. She raised her kids single-handedly and they are all doing well professionally. My mom is my role model, hero and everything.”
Redwood and her family migrated to the Greater Toronto Area two years ago.
“It was really just for another experience,” the married mother of five said. “When you have nothing to compare something with, it’s difficult to speak from just one perspective if you have never tried something else. Like my mother, I am a risk-taker who is always looking for a challenge. While I was doing my research, I also realized that this country is great for raising a family.”
As part of the IWD celebration, six women were honoured for contributions to the organization which was founded in 1962. They were Megan Atkinson, Thelma Leon, Gloria Maragh, Dorothy McCurdy, Nadine McLean and Joycelyn DeSouza.
Atkinson is in her final year in George Brown College’s child & youth worker program, Leon is a retired nurse and JCA member for 16 years who volunteers with myriad organizations, including the Canadian Red Cross and Family Service of Ontario and Maragh is a retired Jamaica Tourist Board secretary who volunteers with the JCA’s Saturday Morning tutorial program.
McCurdy is a personal support worker, nine-year crossing guard and JCA volunteer while McLean holds a diploma in addiction and community service and is a JCA and Malton Community Centre volunteer.
DeSouza was introduced to the JCA four years ago by her cousin, retired college professor Erma Collins who has served in every board position except the presidency in her 46-year association with the organization.
Migrating to Canada 15 years ago, the mother of four works with the federal government and is the chair of the JCA women’s committee.
A Community Award was presented to Janet Neilson. She has combined her interest in human rights, gender equality and social change with a passion for working with women through the initiation of the Violence against Women program at the JCA during her tenure as executive director.
A member of the Black Creek West Community Capacity Building Project economic working group, Neilson played a pivotal role in the JCA women’s committee planning of the first Black Women’s Health Fair in 1993 and has been an active JCA volunteer over the last 25 years.
“I started volunteering with the JCA since the 1990s when I was at Carleton University and I have relished every moment,” said Neilson who is vice-president of business development for TMG Branding which is a full-service brand building, activation, licensing, marketing, social and digital media firm.