Ruthlessly Resilient: The Power of Using Your Voice
International Women’s Day is coming up on March 8, 2022 , and to celebrate, we are bringing you Ruthlessly Resilient: The Power of Using Your Voice. This event is special to us both as a company and also as women founders because this is an opportunity for us to talk to individuals who have been making an impact on the community.
When Anka and I started Ruth, we wanted to foster a welcoming environment for our team, partly because we both value this as individuals but also because this was the environment that we experienced when the idea of making sustainable periods easy started. If you know our story already, I apologize but you’re going to hear it again. If you haven’t, well, welcome, it’s a story worth-telling because our journey getting here was pretty unique.
I joined Enactus - an international student organization that aims to shape generations of entrepreneurial leaders who are passionate about making a positive impact on the community in February 2018. A month after I joined, Anka also became a member. At the time, we joined a project called Hempact. For both of us, we joined the team because we wanted to get involved in extracurricular activities while we were in University - none of us knew about all the buzz words of the Enactus mission nor did we know exactly what we were getting ourselves into. Little did we know, this was going to change the trajectory of our student-life as well as our careers. Looking back now, the main selling point why I chose Enactus/Hempact over other student organizations was the female empowerment that the project was aiming to do by talking about periods. I’m sure for Anka, that was one of the factors too. But for the most part, it was extra-curricular so we can put it in our resume and be employable after we finished our degrees. This was the start of the advocacy for me.
As we continued to work on the project Hempact, we found ourselves getting more and more involved in period conversations both personally and professionally. We were going to schools in Edmonton talking to students about normalizing period conversations. We were also getting more involved in the sustainability space, asking ourselves and our peers why we weren’t comfortable with using reusable menstrual products - what was the barrier? And again asking, is there a better way to be more sustainable as we get more and more awakened about the realities of menstruation. That’s really how all of this started for us. Fast forward to January 2021, we launched Ruth and even before all that started, we have been advocating for normalizing period conversations, sustainability, and of course fighting to end period poverty. Throughout all of these, we realized that we wanted not to only make sustainability easy but also make sure our community knows how important these issues are to us.
Now, let’s talk about the event. Our goal for this event was to bring together strong women who have put their heart into their passions and advocate for the things that they care about. We wanted to have a diverse set of panelists so we can bring different perspectives on the word “advocacy”. We know this means different for everyone and everyone has different capacity on how to advocate for themselves and their communities. Our panelists consist of students, working professionals, and entrepreneurs to talk about their experiences and their journey towards advocacy. Let me introduce them to you one by one.
Isabela Rittinger (pronouns she/her) is a 19 year-old student majoring in Political Science and minoring in Film and Media at Queen’s University. She is an avid menstrual activist and intersectional feminist who has been featured for this activism on publications including The Toronto Star, CBC and CTV. She is also an advocate for the survival of her heritage as a Macanese-Canadian. Her main passion lies in menstrual activism, through which she founded Bleed the North, a youth-led non-profit committed to ending period poverty and period stigma in Ontario in March of 2020, which has donated over 60,000 period products since their inception. Isabela firmly believes that all youth have the ability to make an impact and deserve to have their voice be heard.
Annie Brandt (she/her) is the manager of e4c’s Women’s Emergency Accommodation Centre (WEAC) which is a 24/7 housing-focused shelter for women and those identifying as women in Edmonton’s inner city. The shelter provides supports for women experiencing homelessness who are interested in stabilizing their lives and working towards permanent housing.
Annie was born and raised in Freemont, Nebraska and attended college in Kansas at the University of Topeka, graduating with a degree in Criminal Justice. She moved to Edmonton when she was just 21 years old, and spent 15 years with Up! Community Services before coming to WEAC in 2020.
Annie’s passion for community, connection, and making a difference is what drew her to WEAC. “I'm always open to opportunities. What did it for me, was being able to spend time on a Saturday with some of the women who access the shelter. It was extremely humbling. Everyone welcomed me with open arms, and were very warm. There’s a sense of family here.”
“A shelter is just that – a shelter, It’s not a home. What we are working to accomplish here at WEAC is something that doesn’t exist for women in the community here in Edmonton.”
WEAC is located in the Gibson Block on Edmonton’s Jasper Avenue, its home since 1993.
Yanique Brandford has dealt with period poverty first hand. As a young Jamaican girl from a low-income household and community, it was difficult to access basic necessities like menstrual products each month after groceries and other essentials were purchased. Even after arriving in Canada and being a low-income student dependent on student loans, she continued to face inconsistent access to menstrual and hygiene products. She then decided to tackle the issue of period poverty for herself and other students in her situation.
Doing this for some time, she noticed that the need was too great for her small-scale donation drives and proceeded to register Help A Girl Out (HAGO), an organization that aims to 'help girls out' of poverty by providing them with essential menstrual supplies, educational workshops and empowering campaigns. HAGO supports women in Canada and developing countries, with most of their international work focused on the Caribbean. Since its inception, HAGO has launched many flagship programs, inspired by Yanique's own experiences and the stories of her recipients.
Their most notable programs are designed to keep girls in school, provide rescue kits directly to low-income homes and sew cloth pads for long-term relief for refugees and others most at risk for recurrent period poverty. Yanique won the Global Citizen Prize in 2020 which made her the first-ever recipient of the Canada’s Hero Award for her work at HAGO and her advocacy in the menstrual equity movement.
Erin is a modern hippie meets boss babe here to empower you to be the most confident and fully expressed woman that you can be. She began her journey in the wellness space in her early 20s when she shifted from becoming a traditional school teacher to being a yoga teacher. From there she danced around gathering training and learning from teachers, managing and teaching at studios. Erin now has combined her training in Reiki, Human Design, Yoga, and the energy space to put together her own female empowerment curriculum for female thought leaders desiring to build energetically aligned empires. Erin loves a juicy sacred soak (a special kind of bath), a good barefoot walk in the forest or a creative session in canva just jamming out like it was an old-school scrapbook from the 90s!! She can't wait to dive into feminine energetics with you!
Akanksha Bhatnagar is a graduate student in the Riddell Political Management Program at Carleton University. She has a BA in Political Science & Sociology with a certificate in Interdisciplinary Leadership from the Peter Lougheed Leadership College from the University of Alberta. Akanksha is passionate about strategic communications, public relations, and political management. Akanksha merges her passion for people and empowerment in her professional and personal life by enjoying a great cup of coffee, playing & listening to music, and taking portrait photography.
Alexandra Daignault is a young female entrepreneur, her company combines activism, tea, and feminism into one perfect and impactful blend and she is quite the storyteller!
“It all started with a final project for an Indigenous Studies Course, facilitated by Dr. Renae Watchman. As a class, we were challenged to think about resistance within our everyday experience. One morning, on my way to school, I went to my favourite local coffee shop. Looking down at their array of beverages, I was struck with a thought. Here I was, purchasing products that supported small businesses and Indigenous communities elsewhere in the world. What would the effects be if there was a tea that supported small, local businesses, and provided consumers with the ability to support local marginalized communities? Thus, Sarjesa Inc. was born. ( the rest is optional to add ) As an experienced activist and community organizer focused on social enterprise and community development spaces. I have completed the ASHOKA – AMERICAN EXPRESS boot camp for emerging leaders and have been the recipient of numerous awards – speaking at conferences and facilitating workshops across North America. Graduating as the valedictorian of my class, I am focused on creating more equitable and safe spaces for marginalized women across communities. Working with Elders and community members on blend and packaging, our goal is to create highly respectful products with a variety of social and environmental impacts.”
Those bios alone should get you to check out our event page and register! We are so excited to host this event and we are even more excited to have a powerful and meaningful conversations with our panelists. We hope to see you there!