International Women's Day

International Women's Day | Virtual Panel + Social

The Town of Collingwood honoured International Women's Day 2021 by hosting a virtual panel discussion and social on Monday, March 8th. The panel of nine extraordinary individuals shared their experiences challenging gender bias and inequity - demonstrarting what it means to truly #ChooseToChallenge.

In that spirit, we urge everyone to continue to #ChooseToChallenge throughout this year and the years to come. 


Meet the Panelists

Jill Proud | Moderator

Jill Proud | Moderator

Jill Proud has coached and mentored high achieving leaders from seasoned entrepreneurs to Olympic athletes for over 20 years.

In 2019, Jill launched the Women Presidents’ Organization South Georgian Bay Chapter, a peer advisory organization connecting women who own million dollar companies. This peer group approach fosters members to accelerate business growth and acts as a vital support network and her passion for coaching creates a highly engaged and results-oriented experience for her clients.

Jill loves to work in diverse and meaningful environments including being a TAIS coach for the 2010 and 2014 Canadian National Women’s Hockey Team through Performance Coaching Inc., building collaborations between sectors and different countries around environmental sustainability, and working with leaders at Queen’s Smith School of Business.

Amalia Ortuño | Panellist

Amalia Ortuño | Panellist

Amalia Ortuño Lizano is from Costa Rica, in Central America, and is an Interior Designer and Crossfit Athlete. From the age of 2 years old, Amalia has participated in a variety of sports including ballet, gymnastics, swimming, running and later in life she became a Triathlete.  She later became faced with a degenerative disease, in her early adult years, affecting her hips and consequently impeding her ability to walk and to play and compete in the sports she loves. 

Three years ago Amalia found Adaptive Crossfit which opened up new opportunities to pursue her passion for sports and competition, and in 2019 she became the seated division World Champion and recently in 2020 Amalia became the Wodapalooza fittest seated athlete. She now looks forward to try all new adventures and experiences that 2021 can bring.

Anisha Bensdira | Panellist

Anisha Bensdira | Panellist

Anisha Holden-Bensdira currently lives in Collingwood where she is completing her final year of high school while sharing her continuous spirit and her mantra to uplift others. Already recognized as a leader and advocate towards anti-racism and cultural change, Anisha currently volunteers at the Collingwood Youth Centre, providing educational podcasts, including “In Your Skin” focusing on anti-racism and she is a proud member of The Unity Collective, a community group working with Council and focused on addressing racism and diversity in Collingwood. 

In an effort to support youth across the world, Anisha also hosted The Child Freedom Project, a platform for Canadian teachers and students to build meaningful relationships with international partners. These online activities support those in need and promote cultural understanding.

Ashley Lougheed | Panellist

Ashley Lougheed | Panellist

Ashley Lougheed is the CEO and founder of Girl Time Inc., a social club for everyday women and women in business and her mission is to create a community — a Kula — for women, where they can collaborate, create life-long friendships, live healthy active lifestyles and inspire each other to grow. She is a leader and a learner, with a diverse education including an Honours Degree in Sociology, a Bachelor of Education, a Degree in Interior Design and a Certificate in Event Planning. 

Ashley believes it’s time to connect and celebrate the rise of women as a collective vibration that is fueled with love, compassion, bravery, greatness, empowerment and the readiness to thrive. She saw the needs, wants and interests of women and has built a community to service those needs.

Jillian Morris | Panellist

Jillian Morris | Panellist

Jillian Morris is a Kanien’kehaka (Mohawk) woman and band member of Six Nations of the Grand River Territory who currently lives in Collingwood.   With a degree in Public Administration and Indigenous Governance through Ryerson University, she served 13 years with the Department of National Defence (DND) while co-chairing the Defence Aboriginal Advisory Board for a decade during that time.  

Leaving the public service sector in 2019 to devote more time to Indigenous led initiatives, Jillian spent the past 2 years continuing to volunteer and support events, participate on boards, conduct research, and engage as a guest speaker and she is a proud member of the Feather Carriers: Leadership for Life Promotion community which is based on cultural teachings and capacity building to support those at risk of premature death.  

Jillian has also worked with Red Cloud Studios Inc., an Indigenous-owned production company, and continues to do freelance work focused on redressing history, reclaiming culture and creating space to share stories.

Katherine Vandebelt | Panellist

Katherine Vandebelt | Panellist

Katherine Vandebelt believes patients are the most important constituent in clinical development and they provide the necessary information to assess the safety and efficacy of new medicines. She strives to introduce new experiences and to achieve making the clinical research ecosystem better for patients, healthcare professionals, sponsors and regulators using the power of technology.  

With over thirty years of experience in clinical research, working in different geographies and across various TA, Katherine has collaborated with various organizations to advance their clinical operations and business processes toward a better operating model. Since March of 2020, she has joined the fight against COVID-19 and is a member of a team that offers a flexible and comprehensive solution for monitoring and improving public health during the pandemic.

Sonya Skinner | Panellist

Sonya Skinner | Panellist

Sonya Skinner has been with the Town of Collingwood since mid-2019 and has held the position of Chief Administrative Officer since April 2020 and in the past, she was also the Chief Administrative Officer of the Grey Sauble Conservation Authority for three years prior to joining the Town of Collingwood team.

A graduate in engineering from Carleton University and with a Masters in Engineering from Queen’s University, Sonya has enjoyed a varied career including leading alternative service delivery options, asset management and maintenance for highways and bridges worth over $54B and annual construction procurement and administration estimated at $3B.

She has delivered business analytics and data warehousing for five ministries, as well as Information Technology standards for the Ontario government, and directed Regulatory Compliance Modernization for the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change.

Sonya grew up in Newfoundland and Labrador, and enjoys many outdoor activities, including fly fishing, orienteering, and cross-country skiing.

Ms. Hadeel Khasawneh

Ms. Hadeel Khasawneh | Panellist

Ms. Khasawneh is the JMSP Deputy Director – Project Implementation and has over 18 years of work experience in the areas of democracy, rights and governance; she managed several projects focusing on human rights, women’s rights and local government. Ms. Khasawneh mentored and coached elected women (council members), municipal staff and community members on the importance and impact of women’s participation in local government.

Her background as a Human Rights lawyer shaped her into a strong believer and advocate for the rights of people. Despite the challenges that come with living and working in a male dominated environment, Ms. Khasawneh’s enthusiasm and determination to stand up for women have made her the role model she is today for so many women, in particular young women.  

Through her mentoring, Ms. Khasawneh inspired a woman from less privileged communities who didn’t feel confident to speak in public to become community leader and advocate on behalf of her community for better municipal services. This story has led Ms. Khasawneh to believe that together we can! She will continue her mission to mentor more women to become advocates of their own rights.  

Ms. Khasawneh holds a Master’s Degree in Human Rights from the University of Nottingham, England.

Photo of Hiam Al Qaisi

Ms. Hiam Al Qaisi | Panellist

Ms. Hiam Al Qaisi is a Councillor of the Sheehan Municipality (Karak Governorate), Jordan. After being an educator for 15 years, Ms. Hiam Al Qaisi retired and began to volunteer in her community. Her education and teaching experience were useful during her volunteer years, particularly in her role to provide guidance and awareness on raising children and family reform. Ms. Hiam also served as Director of Women's Work, Qur'an Association for 10 years. 

In the last municipal elections, Ms Al Qaisi ran for a council seat in the Sheehan municipality and won. As municipal councillor, she is involved in investment and bidding committees. She also joined the Local Development Unit (in Sheehan municipality) where she is an active member of the municipal team working with the Jordan Municipal Support Project (JMSP). 

She is a founding member of the “Nashmiyat of Karak” team and of the Network of Elected Women.  
Ms. Hiam Al Qaisi holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Sharia law from the University of Jordan.

Claudia Ferraro | Guest Contributor

Guest ContributorClaudia Ferraro | Guest Contributor

Collingwood Poet Laureate, Claudia Ferraro, was born and raised in Collingwood and is currently in her final year at Dalhousie University in Halifax, studying for her honours degree in English and Creative Writing. She has led workshops and open mic nights and her poetry has been displayed at the Dalhousie Art Gallery and published in the University's literary magazine Fathom of which she is senior editor and head of their social media and marketing team.


IWD in the Community

A challenged world is an alert world. Individually, we're all responsible for our own thoughts and actions - all day, every day! We can choose to challenge and call out gender bias and inequity. We can choose to seek out and celebrate women's achievements. Collectively, we can all help create an inclusive world. From challenge comes change, so let's all choose to challenge.


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