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Supporting Aboriginal women in leadership benefits entire communities

Supporting Indigenous women in leadership benefits entire communities

Shawna McKenzie Snache, a 34-year old Anishinaabe dynamo from the Chippewas of Rama First Nation in Ontario is exploring how community foundations across Canada can use charitable donations to invest in the future of First Nations.

Snache graduated from the 2014 Indigenous Women in Community Leadership (IWCL) program at Coady International Institute based at St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia.

Now in its fifth year, the Imperial Oil Foundation/Exxon Mobil funded program hosts First Nations, Métis and Inuit women for three weeks each spring in Antigonish, NS. Then they spend three months working in their communities to put their learning into practice.

Eileen Alma, director of Coady’s International Centre for Women’s Leadership, says the program’s impact goes beyond the individual. “It’s unique because it provides opportunities for these women leaders to continue to build community-led projects long after they’ve officially graduated, and to connect meaningfully to other leaders and communities in the process.”

In Snache’s community research, she learned the Community Foundation of Orillia and Area has given out more than $550,000 to regional non-profit organizations, with one notable exception.

“My own community has never applied for a grant or project funding from this foundation,” she says. “We need to explore the power of these partnerships, and how they can benefit people in our communities. So we’re asking questions to see what might work here, and elsewhere in Canada.”

Snache’s work is already benefiting Chippewas of Rama First Nation: “There’s a willingness right here to embrace the concepts I brought back from Coady,” she says. “Together, we’re developing a vision for where we can be, and how we can embrace new opportunities.”

For more information on the Indigenous Women in Community Leadership program visit their website.