President’s May Message

This past year has had many challenges for all of us to face and we have more than survived it. Thank you for your participation and support to make it a successful time for CFUW St. Catharines as a club, for our member-ship and for our community. There are so many people to thank:

– The Program Committee and the Virtual Platform team who made it possible for us to safely gather monthly with excellent speakers and have access to Zoom for other meetings and interest groups such as book club and dining.

– The Communication Committee who reviewed and evaluated the Membership Questionnaire results, conducted focus group discussions, established a communication plan, worked endlessly on raising the visibility of the club including promotion for the House and Garden tour, and producing a monthly newsletter to keep us in touch.

– The Advocacy Committee who raised awareness of the issues facing Indigenous Women with involvement in the 16 days of Activism against gender-based violence and highlighting the endless environmental issues where we can make an impact for the future.

– The Membership Committee who so creatively celebrated new members to the club and created a new online membership form that will deal with all the privacy concerns related to online communications.

– The House and Garden Tour committee who have re-established the in-person tour for the first time since 2019, in addition to continuing the virtual tour with assistance from Niagara College. All dollars raised support scholarships for young women and local community agencies that support women and children. Thank you to all of the club members who will volunteer as guides at the homes as I know it takes a minimum of 140 of us to make it successful.

– The Charitable Fund which kept us focused on how the fundraising dollars are spent and the impact on the recipients of the scholarships and contributions.

– The 100th Anniversary Ad Hoc Committee who have kept our profile visible in the community and given us a great reason to gather in person to celebrate a century in St. Catharines at Club Roma on May 29.

– All those who kept the interest groups going – virtually and/or in person.

– Gail Neff for the last four years of her leadership and guidance as President and Past President; Lorna Whitty for her timeless detailed work on the budget and Brenda Dolha for her energy and support on Fundraising. We welcome Anne Marie Stockwell as the incoming President and Christine Marks as the incoming Vice-President. Anne Kirkpatrick will replace Christine Marks as Membership Chair.

– Grace-Ann Cambray for your leadership and guidance as the Charitable Fund Chair for the past three years. You leave it in excellent hands for the incoming Chair – Susan Hughes.

– All of the Executive Officers and the Executive Standing Committee members – your support and friendship has made this year so much easier for me. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

– All who have been working behind the scenes to support CFUW St. Catharines – so many of you – thank you.

 It has been a privilege and pleasure to work with women who are so committed to a club and to the development of deeper friendships.

President’s April Message

As we move into spring, I am more and more aware of the environment outside.

I had the opportunity to spend a week with my grandchildren in March and we had a healthy discussion on the environment and the impact that we make every day. My 13-year-old granddaughter profoundly proclaimed that it’s the little things that each of us do that together can make a big difference. We had a lengthy discussion about the overuse of plastics, cars, etc. It was time to reflect upon my own actions in life. Attending Earth Day in St. Catharines three years ago, I listened to a speaker from the Indigenous community who reminded everyone that the actions we take today will have a long-term influence – impacting people seven generations from now. Very thought provoking.

At the beginning of 2022, I made a commitment to no longer purchase plastic bags but that week with my granddaughter I got caught needing one. I have since added a collapsible fabric bag as one of the essentials in my purse. My refillable water bottle using tap water is my source of hydration. My bicycle and legs are wonderful sources for getting around but for long distances my car is the answer. While I have moved to a hybrid vehicle to help the environment, it also helps the pocketbook. Additions to my garden attract bees and butterflies.

Travelling on Vancouver Island is an eye –opener. Liquor stores are charging twenty-five cents for a paper bag. The fish and chips shop by the Fish Market in Victoria has gone totally green – everything used was recyclable (forks, spoons, containers, cups). It’s refreshing to see a small shop being committed and able to make the transition from Styrofoam to a product that is even better. Let’s hope that more take-out food companies adapt to this type of material.

While I grew up at a time that brown paper bags were used in grocery stores, milk came in bottles, water for drinking came from the tap, push lawnmowers were the norm, things have changed, and we have been part of that change. It’s now time to look at what we can do to make a difference for the future generations. Every little thing counts. Let’s be part of that change every day!

President’s March Message

Many great things are happening within the club even though we are not meeting in person. First, there is the revision of several club documents. The job descriptions are being updated (original ones are still on the website). The privacy policies and the procedures and guidelines are being reviewed and updated to comply with legislation and/or internal club decisions. There is an ambitious group that is developing an online renewal form for members that will help ensure your personal privacy requests. The team promises there will be support for all members to complete it.

The Advocacy committee is very active and includes an article in every newsletter. The House and Garden Tour is only three and a half months away and plans are moving forward. This is our principal fundraiser. The team cannot do it without your support. Please assist in making this a success with donating a few hours of your time as a guide on June 5th. It is a wonderful way to get to know other club members and to let the community know what great work CFUW St. Catharines does.

The executive is planning (if all is clear) to return to in-person meetings in September. The Program Committee undertook a review of many possible meeting locations and has secured the Grantham Lions Club on Niagara Street. It is fully accessible with easy parking, in a safe area and at a reasonable cost. The room set up will be similar to what we had at St. John Ukrainian Hall with tables and chairs. We would like to thank everyone for their many location suggestions. We are so looking forward to being able to get together in person.

We are in discussion with Brock University to determine if we can partner with students and professors in the Experiential Learning Course for the development of a strategic plan for our club this fall. Some may ask why a strategic plan. A strategic plan helps the club to identify the current challenges and opportunities that we face and identify a direction the club hopes to grow and develop over the next three-to-five- year time frame. Goals and objectives would be established that align with the vision and mission of CFUW St. Catharines. We would evaluate the outcomes which would help us in our decision making. Membership is definitely an area we need to look at in detail.

Kattawe Henry, our speaker for February, gave us lots to consider. Our speaker in March will provide more thoughts to consider.

I am pleased to report that CFUW National office has relocated to a smaller and less expensive office space at Rideau Community Hub. The new address is Room #230, 815 St. Laurent Blvd., Ottawa, Ontario, K1K 3A7. The phone number, toll-free numbers and email addresses remain the same.

February, although the shortest month of the year, has had a lot of challenging weather. Thank heavens for the Canadians excelling at the Olympics. How proud we are of all participants. The work and determination that it takes to get there is incredible.

Stay safe as the province begins to reopen. Happy International Women’s Day on March 8.

Submitted by Maureen Shantz, President

President’s February Message

I had the privilege of co-hosting with CFUW West Vancouver, a Peer-to-Peer conversation with GWI members and CFUW GWI opt-in clubs on January 21. More than 80 members from around the world including Nepal, India, Kenya, the United States and Canada shared their thoughts and concerns about the impact of Covid on the education of girls and women and the potential solutions. Some of the issues identified included:

– The increase in pregnancy among young women

– The impact of decreased socialization on mental health

– The lack of internet and need to use radios for education

– The lack of computer supplies for education

– The pressures on women to provide support for education of children and to continue to work

– The pressures of decreased income on families

– The lack of incentive to continue in school

– The lack of qualified teachers, the lack of training to do online teaching, limited salary in many countries

Kenya identified that many of their schools lack proper washrooms for girls which impacts them severely during their menstrual cycle.

These important discussions broadened my knowledge of the issues concerning young women outside of Canada. It’s important that we understand the broader world. GWI enables us to do this. • 740 million have been forced out of school

  • 11 million girls won’t return to school
  • Global GDP will be impacted by $10 billion over the next 10 years

To read more: UNESCO – Keeping Girls in the Picture. The information gathered from the conversations is being shared by GWI on January 24 during the United Nations International Day of Education. We are proud to have been part of the discussion and have offered some potential solutions that we hope will be moved forward to improve the education of girls and women throughout the world.

President’s January Message

The ending of the year is a good time to reflect on some of the positives of 2021.

As a club we…

– celebrated our 100th anniversary – in many ways, virtually, but with great gusto and grace

– had an entire year of monthly meetings and speakers face-to-face on Zoom – we’ve learned so much, even managing break-out rooms

had a very successful virtual Garden Tour, thanks to our partnership with Niagara College, that raised more than $20,000 through Eventbrite, YouTube and sponsorships

– saw the formation of a very active advocacy team

– as individuals, we were able to receive two vaccines to combat Covid-19.

 There have been many difficult weeks where we have all been unable to connect in person with family and friends during times of health and illness. It has not been easy. News of the continuing pandemic is a difficult way to start 2022. I encourage you to reach out to other members.

 As individuals, we need to look after our own mental health. Take these quiet months to learn something new or to explore the many beautiful hiking trails in Niagara Region and All Trailsnearby. You can safely play cards online with friends. Create or join a walking group, a book club, and/or connect with St. Catharines Older Adult Centres in the area to learn about new programs being offered. Eventbrite has many free events that take you to different areas throughout the world. Stay busy – both mentally and physically and stay connected. It will help you to get through the grey days of winter.

 While large group meetings may not be on the agenda for the remainder of the year, we will do our best to offer you quality speakers and meetings. We will return in person when it is safe to do so. If you have any ideas or suggestions, please let me know.

President’s December Message

Our 100th Anniversary:

Canada, as a nation, was 54 years young when CFUW St. Catharines first came to life as an organization in 1921. What an incredible group of women to have had the foresight and vision in establishing this chapter – one that is vibrant and very active today. We thank all who have so generously contributed to the ongoing success and value it has provided to women in our community during the past 100 years.

There is no doubt that the Covid-19 epidemic has challenged the celebration of our 100th anniversary in the style that we had originally planned. However, with creative thinking and the use of the internet, the 100th Anniversary liaison committee, the Virtual Garden Tour committee, the Program Committee, social media team and Advocacy group forged ahead and have provided countless ways to publicly demonstrate our continuing presence and importance in the community. A special thank you to everyone who has contributed to make this a great celebration to remember. Please take the time to read History of CFUW St. Catharines on our website. As we now enter the second century of our club – what role can we take on? Our actions today will make an impact for women in the future – The Power of Women Working Together!

 16 Days of Activism Flag Raising

I had the opportunity to proudly represent CFUW St. Catharines at the initial flag raising on November 25th at Niagara Region headquarters to recognize the 16 Days of Activism. As Chair Jim Bradley commented – it is more than raising a flag, it has great significance. It states that the region recognizes the need to provide a safe community for women and girls. Chair Bradley acknowledged that he has heard how much courage it takes for a woman to come forward and share her story. He recognized the tragedy of the missing and murdered Indigenous women across Canada and expressed a need for a safe environment for all women and girls. The need for support is huge for both groups. The region is providing education as part of their commitment to the 16 Days of Activism campaign. Many thanks to the Niagara Region’s women’s advisory committee and Jean Tonogai, chair of our Advocacy Committee for successfully bringing this to the forefront within our community.


President’s November Message

posted in: President's Message | 0

Remembering November 11th

Remembrance Day is always a key day of importance in my life. I am so grateful for the sacrifices of  so many for the freedoms that we enjoy every day. More than 2,300,000 Canadians have served, resulting in the unfortunate loss of 118,000 men and women. Many of you may be impacted by a family member or friend that has served in the Canadian Forces at some point in time. Canadian women played an impressive role on the home front during WWI and WWII – in agriculture, industry, trades and volunteering for war-related work. Veterans of Canada identified that the changing role of women was influential in the decision to grant federal voting rights to women in 1917. “The impressive achievement of these trailblazing women still echo today”.

The ‘Nursing Sisters’ (2800 nurses) served with the Canadian Army Medical Corps at the front line during the First World War. The role of the Nursing Sisters (4500 nurses) was expanded to all three branches of Canada’s military during the Second World War with two-thirds of them serving overseas. Canadian women may have served with the Armed Forces, but they were only accepted into Military colleges in 1979. Finally, in 1989, the Canadian Forces were obliged to open all occupations to women. In 2006, Canada experienced its first loss of an active combat female soldier fighting on the front lines in Afghanistan. The National Memorial Silver Cross Mother represents mothers and widows of Canadian Soldiers who died during active duty or as a consequence of that duty. The mother selected by the Royal Canadian Legion lays a wreath on behalf of all mothers in Ottawa. I had the opportunity to be at the Remembrance Day ceremony in Ottawa several years ago. It was very touching.

We would like to thank the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 24 for laying the CFUW St. Catharines wreath on our behalf at the Memorial Park Cenotaph, St Paul Street, St Catharines again this year. They have asked that we not attend due to limited numbers for outdoor events. Please join in a minute of silence at 11 a.m. on November 11 to honour all of those who have given so much to peace.

Submitted by Maureen Shantz, President, CFUW St Catharines

President’s September Message

posted in: President's Message | 0

Welcome to the first newsletter of our new club year. It’s hard to believe that summer is coming to an end. Hopefully you have been able to safely connect with your family and friends. It has been so good for me to be able to see some family and have some long overdue hugs.

This is my first message to you as President of St. Catharines CFUW. We have so many people to thank for all of the hard work that they have done this past year. While we did that in May, I would like to thank Barb Legg and her Virtual Garden Tour team for a successful fundraiser during June and July, through the remarkable teamwork with Niagara College. Wow – unbelievable. It allows us to continue with our awards and bursaries for young women’s education and local agencies.

The summer has opened our eyes and our hearts to the challenges of young girls and women within our own country and others. The discovery of multiple unmarked graves at residential schools is difficult to comprehend and accept. Most recently, the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan leaves the future of women and education unknown there. We may not be able to change the past, but we can make a difference in the future. Stay informed.

Some changes are happening since our last meeting in May. Thank you to Elma Kimpel for her years of dedication and photography, Liina Veer as Chair of Advocacy, Valerie Parke for Document Storage and Karen Erin as Program Chair. Welcome to Barb Leslie as our lead photographer (amongst her other hats), Jean Tonogai for stepping into Advocacy, Carol Clarke as Program Chair and Susan Middleton as Interest Groups Coordinator. My apologies if I missed others.

While we have been virtual for the most part this past year – we have been very productive. We have a dynamic team that is looking to keeping us connected and well informed this fall. Stay tuned and stay involved.

Submitted by Maureen Shantz, President, CFUW St Catharines

President’s May Message

posted in: President's Message | 0

I have been so pleased by all our club has accomplished this year. I have been energized from seeing an increase in participation of so many members in a variety of committees. The Program, Virtual Platform, Communication, Advocacy, Garden Tour, Membership, 100th Anniversary and Charitable Fund Committees have all grown with new life and new ideas. I believe this is the result of the efforts of three Past-Presidents, Heather Hall, Nancy Ferris-Hostick, and Mary Jane Waszynski, in addition to those of the dynamic and imaginative Chairs. These committees have tapped into the talents of both long- time and newer members resulting in the exciting development of new club operations and initiatives, even during this time of limitations. I want to give a big shout out to you all!

I want to thank Newsletter Editor and coordinator of all email send outs, Anne Bisson, for doing such a magnificent job of keeping us informed and connected during this year of isolation. Thanks also to Elma Kimpel for keeping our spirits up with fun head shots, and to Pat Paulin, Webmaster, for keeping us visible to the community at large.

The past three years have seen great changes in my life as well as changes in the way our club operates. Thank you all for your sustaining support during the tough times. I am confident the new leadership of our club by Maureen Shantz and Anne-Marie Stockwell, bodes well for future accomplishments.

President’s April Message

posted in: President's Message | 0

The endless violence and destruction in Afghanistan has been in world-wide news for at least 40 years. It is a country a bit smaller than Texas but with more people.  A quarter of the population lives in urban areas while the rest of the people are mostly agricultural workers in the countryside. Almost all are Muslims, but they are divided into about 20 ethnic groups, each with a distinct language and culture which partly explains why it has been so difficult for them to unite into a modern nation. It is bordered by Russia (Communism), Pakistan (backing the Taliban), and Iran (backing Al Qaeda) and all have been involved in hostilities along with the US, the UK and Canada as part of the NATO peace-keeping force.

Some other details were filled in for me several years ago when I attended a CFUW Welland meeting and heard Murwarid Ziayee, then the National Director of Canadian Women for Women of Afghanistan (CW4WA) speak about her beautiful, mountainous homeland and what it was like for her as a woman raising a family to live there. The situation was even more dire than I imagined and with increasing threats whenever she left the house, she and her family had to emigrate to Canada. She ended her talk with ways women of the world could help: fundraise to help girls go to school and lobby our government to participate in the peace process. She stressed that the Afghan voice alone is weak and needs to be strengthened with that of international partners.  Now with Zoom meetings available, it might be possible to have her or another activist speak to us in the future.

This past February, I registered for a joint Zoom meeting being presented by the GWI NFA2NFA* Partner Project between CFUW and GWI-Netherlands. Both countries have been active in learning about, discussing the issues and developing an Advocacy Tool kit. The topic was “The Significance of Ongoing Afghanistan Peace Negotiations for Afghan Women.” One speaker was Dr. Lauryn Oates, from Vancouver, who among her many titles is the Executive Director for CW4WA. She likened the plight of Afghan women to being “Canaries in the Coal Mine”. The maintenance of rights for women often determines the success of peace negotiations for the country. What is happening to women in Afghanistan is happening elsewhere in the world. The price for stopping the violence and killing is often the loss of women’s rights. The other speaker was Salma Alokozai, an activist and the CW4WA Country Director, speaking in the middle of the night from Kabul. They both described the unsatisfactory negotiations starting in February 2020 when the US actually signed an agreement to stop the violence during peace talks with the Taliban without the participation of the democratic Afghan government! Although promised, the Taliban refused to stop the campaign of attacks and assassinations, and between March and June the violence was the highest in the last 19 years. Many journalists, activists and women have had to leave the country. The Taliban want to change the Constitution to remove rights of many, including women, and the democratic institutions are in danger. The Taliban has not negotiated in good faith, and there is disaster in the offing if forces keeping the peace are removed too soon. Women could be forced to return to the dark days of Islamic apartheid, be incarcerated in their homes, required to wear veils, be accompanied by men, and be denied education, employment and health care. Their position is perilous because few women’s voices are heard at the peace table, and terrifying bomb blasts and gunfire prevail. Notably, the Taliban have included no women on their 21-member negotiating team. The Afghans have included four women on theirs, so of the total of 42 members on the complete team, only four are women!

Remarkably, despite threats, there are many women’s groups in Afghanistan that are joining forces and demanding that the negotiations result in peace with dignity. They fear that negotiations will result in trading rights for education for both girls and boys for lack of violence. The Taliban claim of support for education is belied by their actions. Many schools are presently closed in Taliban controlled areas. Although they recently threatened to restrict girl’s education to the third grade, they have backed away from that at the moment.

CFUW Ottawa has been learning about this human tragedy since 2010 when a small group of members were inspired by a talk given by Dr. Sima Samar, a human rights activist. They were shocked to learn the plight of women in her country, but also discovered that education was their hope. So, they formed a Study and Interest group called University Women Helping Afghanistan Women, (UWHAW). When Dr. Simar was asked what Canadians could do to help Afghan women, she suggested they share their campaign with other women’s groups. And the CFUW Ottawa Club has done just that. As they became more informed, they were invited to be speakers at local women’s organizations and other CFUW clubs. They have written to the Prime Minister and other senior Canadian officials urging Canada to play a leading role in the ongoing peace talks. They have presented seminars and workshops at National AGMs across Canada, at the GWI Triennials in Istanbul, Turkey and Cape Town, South Africa, and presented a Parallel Session at the 2014 UN Commission on the Status of Women in New York.

Along the way, GWI has been extremely supportive by highlighting their activities on their website and in their programme materials. The imminent need for international participation in the peace process resulted in the design of a six-month project replicating the process of the UWHAW but included working with other NFAs. The project got National approval and was accepted by GWI for the NFA2NFA platform. GWI-Netherlands asked to join them, and their first webinar was the one I described above.

The final webinar is on April 24, 2021 and will feature three remarkable Afghan women including one of the women peace negotiators, and a moderator from the EU. The GWI network can potentially reach 15,000 educated women in 75 countries! Those interested can replicate the project in their own club. As CFUW Ottawa says “We can use our GWI voices across our globe to strengthen those of the Afghan women. Together we can encourage our governments to hear these courageous and articulate women, and work with them and their government towards a permanent and just peace not only for these women, but for their daughters and granddaughters. These women, who have suffered through 40 years of war, need and deserve our support at this critical period. Let their voices be heard.” Watch for the invite link to register on the GWI website.

*(NFAs: National Federations and Associations are members of GWI. There is one NFA per country.)