Plenary Sessions

9:00 – 11:30 am, July 4th
Ottawa Convention Centre

Opening Plenary : Breaking Cycles

To kick off the week, invited panellists will name and take on the various systems of oppression that persist as cycles around the world. On issues ranging from colonialism to patriarchy to capitalism, each of these women will share perspectives borne of personal experiences and professional expertise. This is not a series of speeches, but rather, an engaging dialogue among panellists about the systemic forces that support cycles of oppression, and the courageous ways in which women around the world are breaking them. Congress participants will be provoked and inspired to continue conversing under this theme throughout the day.


Devaki Jain – India

BRIDGER. A feminist economist and activist, Devaki is internationally known for her innovative work on development. She has spent a career connecting academic and policy work and frequently contributes to governmental forums and civil society initiatives in the areas of equity, development, self-government, and population. She has contributed to the design of numerous policy and program task forces, and of working groups established by the Government of India with special reference to women's economic empowerment.


Andrea Smith – USA

PROVOKER. A feminist thinker and anti-violence activist from the Cherokee nation, Andrea has garnered international respect for her advocacy on violence against women of colour, specifically Native American women. Co-founder of "INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence", Andrea currently teaches in the Department of Media and Cultural Studies at the University of California, Riverside. Prior to that, she was assistant professor of American Culture and Women's Studies at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.



9:00 – 11:30 am, July 5th
Ottawa Convention Centre

Plenary : Breaking Ceilings

Be it economic oppression, restricted access to positions of power or to power itself, or limited opportunities for educational and labour force advancement, women across the planet are dismantling the ceilings - glass and otherwise - that serve to maintain women's inequality. Even within women's movements, the ceilings that benefit a few and keep the rest from leadership or from being heard must be challenged. Drawing from their own achievements and from their critical work in shattering limits for all women, these presenters will offer an unconventional panel to set the stage for a day of lively discussion about breaking ceilings, the tools needed, and the consequences.


Nicole Schwab – Switzerland

FACILITATOR. Co-founder of the renowned Gender Equality Project, Nicole is now launching a Gender Equality label (HR) for Fortune 500 corporations. She has worked in the past as a designer with the Architects of Group Genius, director of the Forum of Young Global Leaders at the World Economic Forum, and on health sector reform projects in Latin America. Nicole holds a Master in Public Policy from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and a BA in Natural Sciences from Christ's College at Cambridge University. She is also a founding Board Member of the Antinea Foundation for ocean conservation.

Danièle Magloire – Haiti

STRENGTHENER. With her feminism rooted deep in the Haïtian grassroots, Danièleis a founding member of Bureau d'études TAG (a women's research centre) and one of the leaders of Enfofanm, a women's rights advocacy organization created in 1987. Her present role as leader of Kay Fanm, a social justice and women's rights group, brings together her dual expertise as an activist and advocate: "I ask a lot of questions about women's rights, political involvement, civil and political rights, and social rights." Danièle has studied and presented on a range of issues related to feminist research, including the impacts of globalization on feminist methodologies.

Waneek Horn-Miller

Waneek Horn-Miller – Canada

MENTOR. A Mohawk from the Kahnawake Mohawk Territory on the south shore of Montreal, Waneek was on the front lines of the 1990 Oka Crisis, even getting stabbed by a soldier at the end of the siege. She channelled this life-altering experience into an empowering drive that led to success in athletics. Waneek made the Junior National Waterpolo team in 1994, and later became co-captain of the national waterpolo team for the 2000 Sydney Olympic games. Waneek is currently Coordinator of the First People's House at McGill University, where she strives to attract Aboriginal youth to higher education and mentors young students and athletes.



9:00 – 11:30 am, July 6th
Ottawa Convention Centre

Plenary : Breaking Barriers

Barriers. Borders. Boundaries. So many lines continue to divide us, which is ironic considering how globalization is intended to bring us closer together. While globalization has done a great deal to transform both the notion and practical realities of borders, panellists will share insights on how women are leading the charge for a redefining of boundaries – political, geo-political, economic, sexual/gender, academic – in ways that promote women's equality, leadership, and security. In their own valuable work and around the world, these women are breaking barriers in innovative and transformative ways. Using a uniquely engaging format, this session will frame up a day around this theme.


Mary Simon – Canada

AMBASSADOR. Born in Kangiqsualujjuaq in Northern Québec, Mary's life has been devoted to advocating for the rights of Inuit and other Aboriginal peoples. As the first appointed Canadian Ambassador for Circumpolar Affairs, Mary led the negotiation of the eight-country Arctic Council. Her strategic and cultural leadership has garnered Mary numerous honours, including the Order of Canada, National Order of Québec, the Gold Order of Greenland, and a National Aboriginal Achievement Award. Mary was elected to the position of President Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami in July 2006 and just last month, became the first Inuk inducted into the International Women's Forum.

Judith Heumann – USA

ADVISOR. Special Advisor for International Disability Rights at the U.S. Department of State, Judith is an internationally recognized leader in the disability community and a lifelong civil rights advocate for disadvantaged people. She served as the World Bank's first Adviser on Disability and Development and  served in the Clinton Administration as the Assistant Secretary for the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services in the Department of Education from 1993 – 2001. She previously worked with numerous disability rights organizations including co founder of the World Institute on Disability.

Raewyn Connell – Australia

NORM CHALLENGER. One of Australia's leading social scientists, Raewyn is dedicated to making social science relevant to social justice. Best known globally as one of the founders of the research field on the social construction of masculinity, her book "Masculinities" is the most-cited in the field. A transsexual woman, Raewyn teaches at the University of Sydney and a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia. Along with research and theory, Raewyn's approach to sociology involves social critique and biographical interviews. She has written or co-written 21 books and over 150 research papers, Raewyn's work has been translated into 15 languages.

Malika Hamidi

Malika Hamidi – Belgium

CATALYST. An internationally renowned voice on the issue of women and Islam, Malika Hamidi is part of a surge of women's leadership toward the changing of Islam. Head of the European Muslim Network (EMN) – a think tank working on issues related to Muslim identity in Europe – Malika is also vice president of the International Study Group of Reflection on Women in Islam and sits on the Advisory Committee of the 2014 Parliament of the World's Religions. Malika's Ph D research in sociology explores "the emergence of a transnational Islamic feminist movement of thought and action in the West".



2:30 – 4:00 pm, July 7th
Ottawa Convention Centre

Closing Plenary : Breaking Ground

Everywhere, women are changing rules, seizing opportunities, and not asking for permission. What better way to close Women's Worlds 2011 than by celebrating the voices of trailblazers and engaging in powerful intergenerational exchange? In creative ways, this session will look at how new strategies, new research, new methods of organizing, and new communications tools are helping create the change women want. These panellists are not only leaders in their field, they are first-hand witnesses to the sort of groundbreaking – in social technology and business, from civil society to war zones – that alters herstory for good.


Samhita Mukhopadhyay – USA

GAME CHANGER. An activist, writer, and technologist based in Brooklyn, New York, Samhita is a leading expert and commentator on the intersection of race and gender – from pop culture to politics. A prominent face of so-called third wave feminism, Samhita's Masters degree focused on blogging, gender, social technology, and activism makes. It's no wonder her cutting-edge voice and analysis can be heard regularly – in writing and in presentations – through a range of contemporary publications, gatherings, and media. Samhita is the Executive Editor of the wildly popular website,, and author of the forthcoming book by Seal Press, Outdated: Why Dating is Ruining Your Love Life.

Sebenzile Matsebula – South Africa

EMPOWERER. Contracting polio as a baby in the Eastern part of South Africa and enduring what she calls "an era of disempowerment" as a black and disAbled African woman only made Sebenzile's passion for challenging discrimination and marginalization personal. Currently active on the boards of Action on Disability and Development, the African Decade of Disabled Persons, and numerous NGOs, Sebenzile is also a trustee of the Thabo Mbeki Development Trust for Disabled People. She once served as Director in the Office on the Status of Disabled People for the President of South Africa. Sebenzile holds a Master of Science in Biometrics.

Kathleen Lahey

CHALLENGER. As an academic, litigator, researcher, and legal expert, Kathleen insists that effective policy analysis begins by addressing the human rights of the most vulnerable and documenting the political economy of sex/gender systems. A law professor at Queen's University in Canada, she teaches property, tax, and human rights courses from this viewpoint, has litigated cutting-edge Charter of Rights cases including the BC same-sex marriage claims, Metis women's governance rights, and women's union, publishes and comments widely on equality and sexuality, gender, women's, and racialized persons' rights, and has served in advisory and training capacities from Canada to China and elsewhere. Her current research examines the role of economic crisis in globalizing sex/ualities- and race-based hierarchies of wealth and power, and her operating definition of 'equality' begins with parity and insists on substantive and full empowerment for all people.