June 13th, 2024

Conference aims to empower Blackfoot women

By Ry Clarke - Lethbridge Herald Local Journalism Initiative Reporter on March 10, 2023.

Lethbridge was host this week to numerous events highlighting Indigenous culture and women’s empowerment. The University of Lethbridge held its annual Indigenous Awareness Week on campus from Monday to Friday, highlighting the heritage and impact of Indigenous peoples. On Wednesday , the city celebrated International Women’s Day with a Women’s Day breakfast held by the Lethbridge Chamber of Commerce celebrating the women in our community.

Unifying those themes, the Blackfoot Women’s Empowerment Conference (BWE) will be staged Saturday at the University of Lethbridge from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Markin Hall.

The conference aims to empower Blackfoot women as entrepreneurs, giving them the resources to pursue financial security and freedom. The organization looks to create sustainable change in the community, with a goal of helping women become leaders in their community.

“The Indigenous Women’s Council is hosting the second Blackfoot women’s empowerment conference at the university. Participants can look forward to a day filled with empowerment. Our keynote speaker, Ashley Callingbull, will be talking about making dreams come true. The second keynote speaker, Dr Pearl Yellow Old Woman, will be talking about mental health and how to preserve through challenges,” said Crystal Good Rider, Special Events Coordinator for the BWE Conference.

Looking to incorporate the theme of embracing equity for International Women’s Day, the event will incorporate that into its theme of reclaiming voice.

“That’s something we are aware of and wanted to incorporate that definition into our planning, with our theme for the conference on reclaiming voice, which is helping women,” said Good Rider. “Camaraderie is something that women appreciate, it’s about coming together and being able to support one another. . . The empowerment piece is something that can help families and women in our communities, women in our community are the backbone of the family.”

The event will host workshops and presentations by Blackfoot members, looking to help inspire and empower through the work they have done, or the impacts they have made.

“Presentations include individuals that focus on Blackfoot wellness, elder storytelling, and we have some ladies who are going to be talking about traditional plants within the area, and that connection to the land,” said Good Rider.

“Part of the day consists of a post-dance by the Women’s Stand-Up Headdress Society. That is probably one of the most powerful pieces of the conference, reflecting back on Year One to Year Two. They really are individual ladies who care about the community well being.”

Beginning with a group of women looking to create change as leaders, the BWE got approval from the Status of Women Canada in 2018, aiming to give voice to what economic prosperity means to Blackfoot women.

The Indigenous Women’s Council established BWE in Lethbridge working with Blackfoot women to help elevate them from security to prosperity.

“The big thing for the group is moving forward to formalize Blackfoot Women’s Empowerment, it needs to start moving in that direction,” said Good Rider.

“We are trying to rekindle that matriarchal society that we have always been, reminding women of the roles and responsibilities. We have two elders coming in to encourage the women to share their stories with them and the importance of that.”

Details for the conference can be found on the groups Facebook page at facebook.com/blackfootwomensempowerment/, or the groups website at blackfootwomen.org.

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