Sense of family and community creates a winning formula

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Karri-Lynn Paul was sitting at home with her newborn baby watching TV when she saw a commercial on Aboriginal Peoples Television Network for a certificate program targeted at aboriginal women.

She quickly scribbled down a phone number and web address, beginning her journey.

“In my experience, I hadn’t heard a lot about any programs specifically targeting indigenous women in Canada,” Paul said. “This opportunity came along and I fit the requirements and I jumped on it.”

The program is called the Indigenous Women in Community Leadership Program and is based out of the Coady International Institute at St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia.


Imperial Oil Foundation and ExxonMobil Foundation fund the program. Each student receives a full scholarship that includes tuition, travel, accommodation and meals.

The program lasts for four months and, in this time, women receive campus training and create a project that is uniquely their own, which they present at the end of the program.

It wasn’t just the hands-on experience that was useful, Paul said.

“The relationships that I developed with the other women and with the mentors are something that I think is everlasting,” she said. “That was the highlight for me of the whole program.”

paul delorme

Karri-Lynn Paul (left) and Marie Delorme are just two of the women who have taken advantage of the Indigenous Women in Community Leadership Program and grown through their experience.
Photo by: Erica Pollock
Marie Delorme, a mentor in the program, said she agreed with Paul. “I go on Facebook and I see everyone talking to each other, and they are keeping up this network that will sustain them for the rest of their lives,” she said.

An opportunity like this is important because women are often the movers and shakers in a community, and the program allows women to explore those leadership possibilities, said Sheila Isaac, the program manager.

Paul added: “The experience helped me recognize some strengths in myself that I didn’t see before I went there. I know that my experience has led to these really great things in my life.”

Also, the idea of having only indigenous women creates for a real sense of family and community, Paul said.

“You walk into the room and you know that people just accept you,” she said. “I don’t get that anywhere — especially at a higher level in academia. You are typically the only aboriginal person in the room. To have that comradery, it was amazing.”

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