Women's College Hospital - Health Care for Women, Revolutionized

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Celebrating the next generation of leaders

from the April 18, 2011 issue of Connect

Celebrating the next generation of leaders

A century ago, a group of determined women created the first place in Canada where women doctors could train and practice medicine. Since then, Women's College Hospital has become one of the most important institutions in Canada for women’s health and women’s rights – all thanks to the women leaders who strived to make a difference.

As part of our 100th anniversary celebration, Women's College Hospital is talking directly with girls – our future leaders – to help them make a difference by overcoming the challenges in their lives today.

On April 5, 2011, more than 175 Grade 7 and 8 girls from different schools around Toronto gathered together for Women's College Hospital’s Hooking up with Health: a Conference for Girls. The girls heard inspiring stories from women leaders and discussed pressing issues – body image, bullying, sexuality, healthy relationships – with health experts during four specialized workshops.

“The pioneers of Women's College Hospital inspire me every day when I’m at work, and I hope they inspire all of you with their display of dedication and commitment,” said Janelle Noel, sexual assault service co-ordinator at the Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Care Centre at Women's College Hospital, in a speech welcoming the girls.

There was no shortage of inspiration as successful, diverse women engaged the girls throughout the day: Anne-Marie Mediwake, news anchor at CBC, hosted the event; Xania Khan, editor of Vervegirl, encouraged the girls to be proud of their uniqueness; and Jessica Ye, social justice activist and executive director of Native Youth Sexual Health Network, had the young ladies literally standing up for who they are. During her keynote speech, Ye asked the girls to stop apologizing for where they come from and what they bring to the world. Girls proudly rose from their seats, stating that they weren’t sorry for their height, religion, ethnicity, or – just simply – being themselves.

As a special surprise, The Honourable Deb Matthews, Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, shared her story of being elected to office in order to make a positive change in the community.

“The only way change happens is when people are relentless to make change happen,” said Minister Matthews, as the girls cheered loudly from their seats.

Hooking up with Health was designed with the help of female high school ambassadors, who planned and organized the day, identifying topics that are most important for girls in Grade 7 and 8.

“I chose to be involved in this event because I’m very passionate about women’s rights,” said Manar Hossain, a Grade 12 student at R.H. King Academy and one of the ambassadors. “It’s so important to educate and empower these young girls by providing them with positive influences and resources for their future.”

By the end of the day, the girls left the conference feeling empowered and equipped with new knowledge about how to handle their issues and make the right choices. With the stories of Women's College Hospital’s pioneers from the past coupled with those of compassionate women leaders of today, the girls were reminded that there is no limit to what they can achieve as our next generation of leaders.

 

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