Fort McMurray, AB (January 27, 2022) — Girls Inc. of Northern Alberta and Bouchier are excited to announce IJ Uche-Ezeala as the final nominee of the 2021-2022 Women of Inspiration Series.
The Women of Inspiration Series recognizes local women who break gender stereotypes, create positive change and advocate for women and girls’ rights and opportunities.
Uche-Ezeala has been chosen by the committee for her tireless efforts in breaking race and gender stereotypes and providing opportunities for women and children – particularly girls – to thrive. She is also passionate about promoting the region and encouraging people to live and stay here.
Uche-Ezeala has been a champion for women and girls in many ways, such as a motivational speaker and a mentor with Big Brothers Big Sisters. She has also helped organize the Conversation Cafés, where visible minorities in the Wood Buffalo region could express their concerns in a survey. The survey results encouraged the June 2021 motion by council to increase the number of members on the Regional Advisory Committee on Inclusion, Diversity and Equity (RACIDE) from five to nine to improve diversity of experience and expertise.
In her 20 years working in a corporate environment, Uche-Ezeala was once the only woman of a visible minority in management. During this time, she was bullied and undermined, even once arriving at her office to find a racial statement had been written on her whiteboard. After having the incident brushed off, she went to Calgary to speak to the Vice President which led to her working with Human Resources to promote an anti-bullying policy.
“We are very diverse, but the bigger question is, how inclusive are we, to accommodate and appreciate our differences? Let’s stop the hate and be humane.” says Uche-Ezeala.
In 2016, when she returned to the region after the Horse River Wildfire, Uche-Ezeala noticed children and youth in the community were experiencing academic gaps. To help them build a solid academic foundation, she began Kumon Math and Reading Centre – an after-school enrichment program providing individual lesson plans and support for kids.
When asked why she chose to transition into working with youth, she says she hopes to make it one of her legacies, to see kids excel academically, unlock their potentials while building positive lifetime skills. it’s the “aha! Moments” on the faces of the kids that are priceless, to know that each kid has gained mastery on a topic.
Uche-Ezeala’s work with Kumon goes beyond bridging academic gaps. When her students reach employment age and are interested, She offers work opportunities while encouraging them to pursue further education and experience.
She will join four other Women of Inspiration nominees to be honoured on March 19 at VOICES: Women of Inspiration Celebration 2022 — Together, we can amplify.
This event will be headlined by Canadian Anishinaabe artist Sarain Fox, an Indigenous youth empowerment activist, host of RISE on Viceland and Future History on APTN.
See some of Sarain’s work in her demo reel here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aXxYionDlvY
In person and virtual tickets, as well as partnership opportunities can be found here: https://bit.ly/3fG6Qr