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The many faces behind Bradford's annual Int'l Women's Day brunch

'We’re here to celebrate the importance of inclusion,' says event organizer

In a spirited, music-infused celebration, Cheraldean Duhaney dances to the front of the room, microphone in hand, to welcome a capacity crowd of primarily women.

In her introduction amid the excitement, Tiffany Tyrrell-Shand describes the Ward 1 councillor and founder of the non-profit Impact Youth and Cultural Centre as “a relentless advocate of progress. She’s not just shattering glass ceilings, she’s obliterating them.”

“We’re here to celebrate the importance of inclusion,” Duhaney, a 16-year resident of Bradford, announces at the town’s recent International Women’s Day brunch at the Don Harrison Auditorium of the Bradford and District Memorial Community Centre. “You’re important and you’re more than enough.”

Music turned continuously through the event, spun by deejay, Jeannine 'JJ Rock' Bryan as a backdrop during the brunch and speakers that followed.

“What we do is inspire women,” Duhaney explained earlier as the auditorium began filling with about 150 people.

The goal, added Duhaney — who was recognized last fall as one of Canada’s Top 100 Black Women to Watch 2023 by Canada International Black Women of Excellence — is to celebrate women and their successes and increase awareness of gender equality.

Liz Moore, president of the Bond Head Women's Institute, which works in tandem with the Tec-We-Gwill chapter, was presented as a speaker. Now retired after working with the Ontario government in the field of social services for 32 years, Moore is involved in a long list of community initiatives. During her presentation, she encouraged continued efforts to make a difference by being involved.

“What are the little things that you can do every day to make an impact?” She asked the crowd.

Her group meets monthly where they have fun, support each other and raise money for the community. They run lunches, serving about 65 people every month at the Newton Robinson Hall with the proceeds going back into the community through voluntary efforts.

The Women’s Institute, she added, reflects the changing face of Bradford West Gwillimbury as it expands with an uptick in membership, including interest from young people.

So many in attendance have contributed to meaningful change in the community and have supported others through their efforts, including the three other women on the committee who helped Duhaney organize the event that was presented free through contributions from sponsors. Here are their stories:

Tiffany Tyrrell-Shand works as a job developer with CONTACT Employment Services, connecting with employers. In addition to raising her two daughters, aged eight and 10, she is a director on the Bradford Board of Trade and teaches Sunday school.

Last year, she expressed her delight following Bradford’s first International Women’s Day brunch and soon found herself on the committee organizing this year’s event.

“I left feeling so uplifted,” she explains. “I couldn’t say no … if I could have a chance of being part of something so great, why would I say no?”

Tyrrell-Shand, originally from Jamaica, came to Bradford nine years ago and enjoys the small-town feel which persists despite the town’s continuous growth. The sense of community, she adds, continues to surround her.

Jennifer Bahinski’s ties to the community run deep and wide. While she works as market manager for Bradford Farmers' Market and owns the small business, Bella Lovelee Beads (an Indigenous beadwork business), she’s involved in several organizations.

“I'm a strong believer that inclusion, a sense of belonging and a safe space where all voices are valued are the greatest foundations on which to build a thriving community,” she explains.

Bahinski serves as vice chair of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee for the Town of Bradford West Gwillimbury, is a member of the library’s Indigenous Planning Committee and the Odenaang Circle – a newly created Indigenous community group.

She draws on her Ojibwe and Ecuadorian heritage for some of her involvements including being a member of Rise Up Bradford West Gwillimbury, which hosts various Indigenous-led events throughout the year to amplify and help to educate the Bradford community, including National Truth and Reconciliation events, MMIWG2S ceremonies and National Indigenous Peoples Day Celebrations.

She also manages a Lil Indigenous Market Instagram page to highlight Indigenous businesses in both Canada and the United States.

As a proud hockey mom of three children, aged eight, 12 and 14, she is also a hockey trainer for U9HL Bradford West Gwillimbury Minor Hockey Association as well as for the U13 Little Native Hockey League Tournament March Break and trainer and manager for the U15HL Central York Girls Hockey Association.

Nusrat Awan has been volunteering for more than 30 years as a school fundraiser, at a women’s shelter and as a computer teacher.

“My goal is to be an active part of any campaign that raises awareness about the challenges faced by women in underdeveloped countries and to foster global unity in supporting one another,” she says.

She was delighted to return and help with this year’s event after last year’s successful efforts as a passionate advocate for women’s rights and in her ongoing efforts to contribute to community development.

She also draws from her educational background in computer engineering, focusing some of her energy in her drive for rights, inclusion and equity.

“My vision revolves around seeing women across the globe empower each other and make significant strides in fields such as engineering, science and technology.”