We recently spoke to Ifeoma Esonwune, the Founder and CEO of The STAR Women’s Network Inc. Learn more about the organization driven by a mission to empower women, inspire change and foster gender equality through a supportive and inclusive community below:

If you could get Canadians to understand one thing about your work, what would it be?

I am on a mission to change the way we perceive and cultivate gender equality. I want my work to show Canadians that acknowledging the disparities is not enough. It is also about actively creating pathways for empowerment. I want Canadians to understand that achieving gender equality is not just a box to check but a holistic and transformative journey that requires collective commitment and action.

We often hear the phrase “representation matters”. What does this mean to you? How does your work embody this mentality and create opportunities for the gender equality community to thrive?

Representation is vital for the progress of society. Everyone should see themselves reflected in leadership positions, decision-making tables and every aspect of societal life. In my work with the STAR Women’s Network Inc., and as an immigrant and Black woman, representation is at the heart of my thinking and our efforts. At STAR, we strive to amplify diverse voices, ensure equal access to opportunities and eliminate barriers that hinder women’s advancement. I am dedicated to creating inclusive spaces and platforms that empower individuals to thrive. I believe this leads to transformative and tangible changes in the pursuit of gender equality and equity in society and our communities.

What are some unique challenges that you have faced at work? What are you doing to overcome them?

As a Black woman and minority, one of the unique challenges I have encountered is navigating rigid mindsets and systemic barriers that perpetuate gender inequities. Breaking through these barriers demands perseverance, innovation and tenacious commitment. Through my work, I implement different strategies to overcome them, including advocacy campaigns and collaborative partnerships. I also believe that fostering a supportive community, nurturing emerging leaders and empowering individuals to challenge the status quo and drive meaningful change from within are vital components to achieving gender equality.

What keeps you going? Are there any hopeful stories that you can share with us?

My firm belief in the power of collective action and the resilience of the human spirit keeps me going. Every day, I am inspired by the stories of courage, perseverance, and success that emerge from our community. These stories speak to the incredible potential within each individual and the profound impact that support and empowerment can have. One of the most inspiring aspects of my work is witnessing the success stories of hundreds of women who, through our transformative programs, discover their potential, break down barriers that once seemed insurmountable, and become pioneers in their respective fields. These journeys, marked by determination and relentless pursuit of dreams, often in the face of adversity, fuel my motivation.

What upcoming events or initiatives are you excited about? Why is this important to share with the gender equality community?

I’m thrilled to announce our upcoming Global Summit on Women’s Empowerment and Gender Advocacy (WEGA 2024) scheduled for October 9 – 11, 2024, at the ASCOTT Parc Event Centre in Vaughan, Ontario. This event will be a landmark gathering to foster inspiring networking, dialogues, mentorship, knowledge sharing and capacity-building within the women’s empowerment and gender equality community. The WEGA 2024 Summit will bring together thought leaders, activists, policymakers, and community members from around the world to a dynamic platform where voices across generations can exchange insights, share experiences, and leverage collective wisdom. Attendees will hear inspiring keynote speeches, engaging panel discussions, and workshops designed to delve into the most pressing issues in gender equality and women’s empowerment.

Budget 2024: Key Highlights for the Equal Futures Network 

The Equal Futures Network acknowledges that Indigenous people are the traditional guardians of Turtle Island, on the land also known as Canada

Read our full Territory Acknowledgment here.