AIDS activist Anne-Marie Zajdlik told local entrepreneurs Thursday that empowering women is good for business and for society as a whole.
“When female leaders are given the opportunity to lead, watch out,” said Zajdlik. “They don’t just succeed, but families are restored, communities thrive and futures are redirected.”
Zajdlik was the guest speaker during the 2017 Rhyze Awards held at the Frank Hasenfratz Centre of Excellence on Woodlawn Road.
The Rhyze Project is a program of Innovation Guelph that seeks to cultivate the entrepreneurial spirit of women in Guelph and Wellington County.
“I know it is only in this region but Ontario needs more Rhyze,” said Jim Gardiner regional vice president of Meridian Credit Union. “It is great to see the reach of the project expanding.”
Gardiner joined Rhyze Project director Kristel Manes and front of house coordinator Bailey Morrison in presenting each of the 10 award recipients with a cheque for $1,000 to be used as seed money for their businesses.
Tessa Kampen from Mompreneur Guelph also donated top-level memberships and UPS gift certificates to each recipient.
Manes congratulated the winners as well as the 50 other award applicants on their success but reminded everyone that only 20 per cent of businesses in the area are owned by women.
“That is lower than the national average and it is our duty to get that number up,” she said.
The goal of the Rhyze Project is to raise the level of women-owned businesses in Guelph and Wellington County to 30 per cent by 2025.
Zajdlik recounted her experiences in Lesotho, Africa and her efforts to fight the spread of HIV and AIDS. She has received multiple humanitarian awards including the Order of Ontario, Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal and the Woman of Distinction Life Time Achievement Award for her work as founding director of Bracelet of Hope, ARCH Clinic Guelph and Waterloo and as medical director of Hope Health Centre.
“Eliminating gender disparity is the primary path forward to achieving global prosperity and peace,” Zajdlik said. “We are still over 100 years away from eliminating gender disparity world wide.”
She said the status of women is directly related to the economic health of the world.
“Countries that oppress their women are doomed to be failed states,” said Zajdlik. “Failed states increase extremism and terrorism which decrease global security. The fate of girls and women is precisely the fate of their countries, their communities and their world.”
The list of 2017 Rhyze Award recipients in order of presentation were.
Danielle Joworski is the founder of The ATHENA Prodigies, a book, workshops and events designed to empower women and girls.
Deborah Keeble is the owner of Edible Promotions, a source for edible promotional items.
Debbie Stanley is the owner of Estate Transition Planners that offers estate planning support and resources.
Angela Liu is the founder of EZ Health Coach that provides diabetes education, foot care and home care services.
Vicky Canham is the owner of Fallowfield, an independent children’s shop offering ethically made organic clothing.
Kyla Poirier is president of Fourchette Culinary Academy that offers interactive cooking lessons.
Lisa Harrison is the founder Milk Thistle Paper Co. that makes greeting cards with original illustrations.
Samantha Blostein is the owner of Research for Change, a consultancy for strengthening social service sectors.
Sarah Stewart is the founder of Open Minds Mental Health and Education Training.
Root and Bone Herbals offer handcrafted herbal culinary and body care products.