Introducing the 2015 Daughters of the Year

Yessy Byl is a human right activist and public educator best known for her work around Temporary Foreign workers and labour related issues in the province of Alberta. A first generation immigrant of Dutch heritage in Canada, Yessy moved to Canada in 1969 as a four-year-old. After graduating from the University of Calgary’s law school in 1980, she has been working untiringly to improve labour conditions in Canada. Yessy has an accomplished list of experience of serving as board members for various legal organizations.

Kristina De Guzman Kristina has made a lifelong mission to connect newcomers of all ages with artistic projects in Edmonton.  Her latest work  is a joint initiative between her former colleagues at Edmonton Immigrant Services Association (EISA) and Edmonton artists to capture the stories and faces of the residents and businesses on 107th Avenue. Kristina is an accomplished musician and loves to explore neighbourhood storytelling with visual art. Kristina works with Edmonton Arts Council and is actively engaged in promoting the arts scene in Millwoods.

Sheliza Kassam founded the Children’s Birthday Miracles while still in high school. The non-profit organization creates memorable birthday celebrations for less fortunate children. Featured as part of the Coca-Cola’s “Open Happiness” campaign, Sheliza’s organization has provided food, presents, entertainment and necessities to birthday parties at homeless shelters in Calgary, Toronto and Medicine Hat and and in Peru, Kenya and Tanzania.  Sheliza’s social justice ideas are well followed in TEDxYouth Calgary, We Day Alberta and the Canadian Business Hall of Fame. She has tons of accolades, including Top 30 under 30, Stars of Alberta, the Deloitte National Inspiration Award and many more.

Malja Najmi-Beauchamp a high school student from Fort McMurray has been a great support for fellow teens going through difficult times in life from bullying, family breakdowns and contemplations of suicide. Malja has been involved in many activities throughout her life working endless hours for organizations like Canadian Mental Health, Jump for Heart, Boys and Girls, Girl Guide, YMCA, Mayors advisory council. Always a happy face and with loads of enthusiasm, Malja is seen actively engaging as a community volunteer reaching out to the elders in the community.

Karen Smith works tirelessly towards ending sexual violence and healing of the survivors. Karen has been the Executive Director of Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton (SACE) for 12 years.  She has worked with survivors of sexual violence for over 22 years untiringly. She lives in St. Albert. As she retires, we are pleased to honour Karen at the end of her outstanding service in Edmonton.

Leslie Weigl is an outstanding multicultural educator at the University of Alberta. She has worked with the international and local student community of Edmonton since 2004 to engage them in global citizenship concepts. Leslie has also taken a leading role on campus to provide intercultural training. She designs and delivers interactive workshops that help people understand their own cultural perspectives and feel others perspectives.


Program Booklet Messages

Friends of Daughters Day are invited to buy a message in the program booklet for the August 29 event. This is a valuable way to show support for the mission and work of Daughters Day, and it will reach an anticipated 400 people who attend the event, as well as being at the Daughters Day website over the year ahead.

The regular cost is $500 for a full page ad and $250 for a half-page ad.

Charitable and not-for-profit organizations pay one-half these rates.

If the message/ad is not provided ready to insert into the booklet as a JPG or PDF file, but needs to be designed, there will be an additional $50 charge.


Full page max size: 3.4″ wide 6.5″ high

1/2 page: 3.4″ wide and 3.0″ high.

The deadline is July 6.

For questions please contact Jim Gurnett at or (780) 218-6989. Ads should be submitted to the same email address. When submitting material, please provide both email and postal address and correct name for the invoice.


Workshop Registration

If you are a woman interested in learning more about community activism, this workshop on October 18 may be for you. This is an introductory workshop, intended for people with little or no experience in such things. It will cover such topics as doing analysis about an issue, developing an action plan, mobilizing community involvement, and communications through media and social media. The goal is to have participants leave with a commitment to undertake a first small activity of some sort in their own circles, with support from mentors. Here is the registration form.



News Release: Daughters of the Year making a difference in the community

News Release

September 4, 2014: For immediate release

Daughters of the Year making a difference in the community

Twelve women making a positive difference in Alberta will be honoured as Daughters of the Year at the third annual Daughters Day celebration.

“The contributions of the twelve women being honoured are diverse. Some are deeply involved helping people who are facing challenges in their lives, some are working to make public policy better for women, some have achieved remarkable success in areas of personal commitment. What is clear from their accomplishments is that when we ensure fair opportunity for all our daughters we are helping to create better communities for all of us,” says Daughters Day chair Charan Khehra.

The Daughters of the Year presentations are a highlight of a September 6 event at City Hall. They were selected by a jury from nominations received from the public. Jury members were Danielle Campbell, Edmonton Police Services Deputy Chief; former City Councillor Karen Leibovici; Danielle Monroe with ACT Alberta; Philomena Okeke-Ihejirika, University of Alberta professor; and Lori Sigurdson, Alberta College of Social Workers.

“The inspirational examples of the Daughters of the Year demonstrate why the goal of Daughters Day to ensure an end to all discrimination and abuse of daughters is so important,” says Jim Gurnett, Daughters Day project coordinator.

Daughters Day also features keynote speaker Dr. Jodi Abbott, President of NorQuest College, with a student body that is 80 percent women. Entertainment will be provided by Tommy Banks, Inner Voice, Macha Abdallah, Maria Dunn, and Paula Kirman. The host for the program is Elexis Schloss.

The day begins with an information fair and commitment walk, beginning at 112:30 PM, prior to the main program at 2 PM. “The walk invites people to follow a route that begins at City Hall and moves to eight sites in the area, at each of which there will be information about some area of women’s accomplishments. Families or friends get a route guide and then enjoy the walk while they learn from the stops and share ideas with each other, before arriving back at City Hall for the program,” explains Gurnett.

Daughters Day activities beyond the September 6 celebration included consultations with groups of women in communities around Alberta earlier this year that resulted in a handbook on ending gender discrimination that will be available at the September 6 event. There will also be a training workshop in October for women wanting to use the handbook in their own communities.

Information about Daughters Day is at


For more information or comment please contact Jim Gurnett at 780-218-6989 or

Interviews with individual Daughters of the Year can be arranged by contacting Gurnett.

Jeni Adler

Jeni Adler’s work at Jewish Family Services is marked by the effective creativity of the programs she operates, and the love and friendship she expresses to immigrant women and others with whom she works.

Shreela Chakrabartty

Shreela Chakrabartty is a pioneer film director and producer, whose recent Edmonton-made movie “Rock Paper Dice Enter” has had a successful run in Canada and internationally. She has done many projects with FAVA, and worked on the sound for the Academy Award nominated “Water.”

Lan Chan Marples

Lan Chan Marples chaired the first Edmonton Chinatown conference on the 100th anniversary of the community. Her work with the Chinese community has included leadership at ASSIST Community Services, and programs to combat family violence, and engage isolated seniors. She has provided leadership with Canadian Multicultural Education Foundation’s annual Harmony Brunch.

Joan Cowling

Joan Cowling served four terms on Edmonton Public School Board where she worked to have Francophone students welcomed, and spearheaded Aboriginal inclusion programs. As Chair of Canadian School Boards Association, she helped develop a model multiculturalism and race relations policy for school boards. Joan is Chair of John Humphrey Centre for Peace and Human Rights.

Linda Dumont

Linda Dumont started Alberta Street News in 2003 but worked with street papers in Edmonton from 1993. Alberta Street News provides a way for those unable to hold conventional jobs to make some money selling papers. She is a published poet and talented painter as well as an articulate anti-poverty activist.

Rajvir Kaur Gill

As Indo-Canadian Women’s Association program director, Rajvir Gill is developing community activities around the elimination of violence against women in the name of “honour.” She serves on the new WAVE Committee of the City of Edmonton and the REACH board. She was recently named one of the “Top 30 under 30” in Edmonton.

Paula Kirman

Paula Kirman is an activist in community/independent media and social justice, using skills as writer, editor, photographer, videographer, and singer/songwriter to effect positive social change. She documents many social justice events and posts at her website Radical Citizen Media. Paula is Editor of the community newspaper Boyle McCauley News, and wrote the theme song for the Daughters Day celebration.

Laura Manickaraj

Laura Manickaraj has dedicated much of her life to living with people with developmental disabilities in L’Arche communities, since 1987 in Calgary. She is a living testament to the value of inclusion and embracing diversity. She describes involvement with people with disabilities as a mutual opportunity for learning. Duncan, who lives in a L’Arche community, says, “Laura is a second mother to me. She brings life to the community.”

Zainab Mohamoud

Zainab Mohamoud is one of Red Deer’s most active and enthusiastic volunteers in fundraising for breast cancer research. She cooks and sells Somali foods at a farmer’s market to raise funds for girls’ education in Somalia and is a social worker at Central Alberta Immigrant Women’s Association.

Shawna Pandya

Dr. Shawna Pandya is a neurosurgery resident at University of Alberta Hospitals, with a passion for space, and a degree from International Space University. She mentors for Cyber Mentor, encouraging women in technology and sciences. She was part of the team doing pre-clinical testing of the NeuroArm for robotic neurosurgery.

Bridget Stirling

Bridget Stirling has been a public educator with Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton and made presentations supporting survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence, helped organized Take Back the Night and International Women’s Day events, and volunteers on the board of Edmonton Social Planning Council.

Michelle Van Teeling

Michelle Van Teeling spent years obsessing about being thin, until she concluded eating well and exercise was the real route to healthy body, and mind. This led her to body building, and her first competition in 2007. Recently she placed second in Northern Lightweights Women’s Bodybuilding and Northern Masters, and now has the goal of qualifying at Nationals level. She creates masterpieces of cake design, available through Yummy Mummy Cakes too.