Women’s Leadership Forum brings together Inuit seeking to make a difference
Women across Nunavut, who want to build a better future for themselves and for the territory, are hailing Arnait Tulliningit’s Inuit Women’s Leadership Forum as a success.
The name Arnait Tulliningit refers to a women’s trail in a traditional encampment, which reflects the journey of the women participating in the forum.
“It was very exciting to see the Inuit come together to try to plan for a better future,” said Taloyoak guest Elizabeth Lyall.
Lyall was one of dozens who attended the women’s forum from August 23-26.
She grew up in Rankin but now lives in Taloyoak where she is the coordinator of the Aboriginal Head Start Program, a board member of the Iliatisniq Council (as well as one of its founders) and involved in a women’s group. Lyall said her hamlet encouraged her to participate in the forum because she is involved in many different local organizations.
“I try to be active in what matters to me, which is helping others improve,” Lyall said.
Originally the program was to be held in Rankin Inlet, but bad weather meant that the course ended up being split between the Kivalliq and Iqaluit.
Throughout the week, the women, who were linked between Rankin and Iqaluit via Zoom, were guided through a series of workshops designed to empower and support them.
Topics discussed included how to improve women’s leadership at the community level, build capacity for new programs, and seek resources to deliver such programs.
The multi-departmental approach allowed speakers from all walks of life to make presentations, including NTI President Aluki Kotierk, Pautktuutit Inuit Women of Canada President Rebecca Kudloo and Sileema Angoyuak, President of Quliit Nunavut Status of Women .
A group of seniors were also supposed to give presentations, but due to screen communication difficulties, they were unable to.
Lyall said one of her main goals was to try to boost women’s self-esteem.
“You have to feel good about yourself to help others,” she says. “I know we are good at all areas of our sewing and craft, so we want to encourage each other. We can do anything when we don’t feel alone.
Keisha Westwood of Kugluktuk echoed the sentiment that it can be difficult for women to bring about positive change in their communities because they are looked down upon or ignored by men.
“I see young women and older women putting themselves down for men, but I’ve also seen the same women packing up and going hunting on their own. I want to help them find their voice and empower them,”
While Westwood isn’t sure what kind of program she wants to start, she said being on the pitch has helped her in her own healing process. She added that being at the conference made her feel less alone in her mission.
“I personally suffer from anxiety and being able to hear that it’s not just me wanting to make a change in the mental health system that really stuck with me,” she said.
Tamar Mukyunik from Arviat has been running a taxi business for three years and hopes to open a photo studio in her hometown in the near future. She also helped start a women’s group in Arviat earlier this spring.
Her participation in the leadership forum made her realize how important it is to develop more programs to teach Inuit language and culture.
“We have to reinforce it, practice it, promote it, use it, speak it, write it, grasp it. Make it a priority. she said.
She added that one of the biggest gaps in programs for Nunavummiut in need is for orphaned children.
“Everyone loves the rich, the famous, the well-educated and supports all of those people, but I want to speak on behalf of the orphans. These are left to fend for themselves,” she said. “I want organizations to support them, comfort them and nurture them.