International Women’s Day is on Friday, March 8. It’s an opportunity to renew our efforts to achieve gender equality and recognize the contributions of women in Canada and around the world.
Meet two of our inspirational grads – changemakers in their field and communities.
Amanda Slade, Marine Navigation Technology (1984)
“I’m not inclined to let you in.” Words no student wants to hear, but exactly what Amanda received from the Dean of Admissions in 1981 when she first sought to enrol in the Marine Technology – Navigation program at Georgian’s Owen Sound Campus.
Amanda was already an experienced cadet, having worked for Toronto Brigantine, an educational tall ship sailing program for several summers. However, good grades and experience were not enough at a time when very few women pursued a career in the marine industry, and even fewer stuck with it.
“I can still, to this day, remember how angry I was,” says Amanda. Nevertheless, she persisted and was granted a seat in the program.
At the beginning, there were 32 students and after a one-week orientation, they spent the next six months at sea on the Great Lakes. Only 20 students returned, and by graduation, there were only 12 students remaining.
Amanda was one of them – and she’s been breaking barriers ever since.
After graduation, Amanda pursued a number of opportunities both domestically and abroad. Her experience as a student on the Great Lakes – combined with professional experience following graduation – eventually led to her obtaining her recent position as relief third mate aboard the Algoma Buffalo, a bulk carrier on the Great Lakes nearly 200m long with a cargo capacity of 24,300 tons.
She began pursuing her Master Mariner’s Certification in 1999, and while the academic portion of the certification process was available to her through Georgian, Amanda realized she would need to go international to gain the experience she needed to qualify.
“So few Canadians are ever able to achieve the Master Mariner license,” says Amanda. “Almost all Canadian flagged ships operate in sheltered waters – on lakes, rivers, and near shore. A Master Mariner’s Certificate requires experience on the open ocean.”
After passing the Master Mariner’s exam in 2005, the seas opened up. She could now captain any ship worldwide, and she did. Amanda sailed through the Panama and Suez Canals, West Africa, Australia, and even had to wear a flak jacket while sailing off the coast of Somalia, a notorious pirate haven. She also spent time working as a senior investigator with the Transportation Safety Board of Canada.
Amanda has been helping to train the next generation of mariners through teaching roles at marine schools across Canada, including Georgian, since 2016. She’s currently Instructor and Principal Consultant at Mor Ocean Management Inc.
She lives on Vancouver Island and has been active with the Master Mariners of Canada for many years, a non-profit dedicated to developing the education, training and qualifications of young seafarers. Amanda is co-chairing a symposium, The Evolution of Equality and Inclusion in the Marine Profession, in October in Ottawa.
And as if that didn’t keep her busy enough, she’s also pursuing a degree in anthropology through Athabasca University.
When asked where her interest in anthropology stems from, she smiles and notes that, “Ships are little microcosms of humanity.” Amanda wants to learn more about how humanity spread across the ocean so many years ago.
Zein Dhanidina, Fundraising and Resource Development (2006)
Zein credits Georgian’s flexible learning options for allowing her to pursue her passion, while raising two young children and caring for an elderly parent at home.
“Being able to do distance education was a saving grace,” says Zein, who immigrated to Canada from Tanzania with her parents at the age of six. “I felt comfortable at Georgian and knew I would get the support I needed. When I was a new graduate, I could call my professors for advice, and they were always there to help me out.”
Zein, who still has her college textbooks on her office bookshelf more than a decade later, credits the practical knowledge and skills she received from her college education for the success she’s achieved in the non-profit sector – both in fundraising and governance.
In 2016, she founded the Refugee Women’s Network, a charitable organization that empowers refugee and new immigrant women by helping them rebuild their lives through education. The organization assists refugee women with overcoming the early barriers that many face when coming to Canada by giving them the language skills and confidence they need to pursue further training and employment.
Some of the women she works with have been in Canada for years and have never had the opportunity to learn English, creating a barrier between them and services, community and their own children who’ve grown up speaking English in Canada. “You can see it in their eyes, the sorrow and suffering,” says Zein about the hopelessness and isolation many of the women feel before they come to the Refugee Women’s Network.
In addition to working with refugee women, Zein has spent the last five years as a volunteer tutoring centre manager at the Willowdale Ismaili Community Centre and Jamatkhana. She helps children from Grades 1 to 11 three days a week with their math and English skills. Many of these children have spent significant time in refugee camps prior to coming to Canada, and have fallen behind their peers in their studies.
Zein held a number of other roles in the non-profit sector, including Development Manager with New Circles. She was the first Executive Director of NephCure Kidney International Canada. She’s volunteered for over 30 years with the Aga Khan Foundation Canada’s World Partnership Walk, and has raised close to $1 million for the charity.
Through her work, Zein now recognizes the challenges her mother would have experienced as an immigrant to Canada.
“It’s a really strong motivator for me to help these moms who can in turn help their families,” she says. While she smiles when thinking about all the lives she has already changed, she notes that, “there is still so much more to do.”
In November 2016, Zein was nominated for a College’s Ontario Premier’s Award in the Community Service category for her commitment to the non-profit sector and work with refugee women.
Do you know an outstanding female grad? Tag them and us on social media @georgiancollege