Meet Meseret Haileyesus: Founder of the Canadian Center for Women’s Empowerment and Maternity Today
A social entrepreneur Meseret is the founder of both the Canadian Center for Women’s Empowerment and Maternity Today. With a background in, midwifery, economics, and global health, she drives social change by advocating for high-quality and accessible sexual and reproductive healthcare for women on a global scale, with a goal of ending gender-based violence. By starting and leading the non-profit research and educational organization, Maternity Today, Meseret has assisted many African women through their new motherhood journeys. As the founding president of the Canadian Center for Women’s Empowerment, she inspires research, advocacy, and policy for economic justice in Canada. Meseret is a member of multiple UN and World Health Organization programs, where she produces strategies to reinforce the reproductive health components for health sector reform programs in developing countries. Meanwhile, she is supporting Centre Town Community Health Centre and Community Development Framework Learning Forum in Ottawa while building her plant-based wellness and lifestyle brand, Nacre Organics. She is the proud mother of one beautiful daughter who inspires and motivates her every day.
My first job ever was… as a midwife at a rural place in Ethiopia — a place without enough water, electricity, technology, and reliable transportation to save mothers’ lives during childbirth.
My proudest accomplishment is… 1) I’ve demonstrated through my own journey that women can be successful leaders. I’ve empowered my community to improve women’s access to economic empowerment, achieve gender parity and financial independence, and serve as role models. 2) I have mentored women-owned businesses and emerging women leaders and provided opportunities to marginalized groups in Ethiopia and Canada.
3) I’ve served as a zero-waste advocate: promoting healthy lifestyles by promoting nontoxic plant-based personal care products, green cosmetics, fairtrade, biodegradable, and zero-waste packaging.
4) I have created a platform to address mental health problems, that has supported over 45 women during the pandemic with mentorship. Most of them are already dealing with a lot of PTSD symptoms, loneliness, and isolation, which are then made worse by the pandemic.
My boldest move to date was… learning how to say “no.” After pushing myself out of my comfort zone, I can now work towards my goals and dreams.
I surprise people when I tell them… about my journey, my resilience to thrive, and my goal of helping others.
I launched the Canadian Center for Women’s Empowerment (CCFWE) because… Economic abuse is misunderstood in our community. I have seen domestic violence victims and survivors struggle with financial abuse, even after separation. Their partners regularly take their money, paycheques, social assistance payments, and tax refund checks, leaving them with little or no money. Most survivors have also accumulated debt because their partners used their credit cards, took out loans, or put bills under their names. It directly impacts a woman’s future, including mental health, and her ability to rebuild economic security and develop emotional well-being. As I see it, the solution is to invest in survivors and their financial security and build an ecosystem to support their long-term safety.
Usually, in the public policy context, women’s economic security and violence against women are often examined separately from each other. Understanding the impact financial abuse has on women’s safety, and economic security is critical for developing policies, programs, and practices that promote these aims. CCFWE seeks Economic Justice for a victim of domestic violence.
What is the goal of CCFWE… to address Economic Justice through education, advocacy reviewing systems, policies, procedures, and advocates to remove any barriers to economic safety. We fight to influence policy that supports survivors’ successful transition to economic independence and healthy and safe life. Our advocacy efforts include engaging with survivours, policy-makers, developing education and awareness campaigns, and creating a policy agenda.
Gender-based violence is increasing during a pandemic… The top three reasons are 1. Self-isolation: It makes women more prone to domestic abuse as they are cooped up at home with their oppressors 2. Financial abuse: Financial abuse is on the rise as women and oppressors feel the pinch in this unprecedented time 3. Lack of a support system: The lack of a support system for survivors, such as counsellors, friends, or other means, is another main factor for the increase in domestic violence. Women are finding it difficult to reach out for help during this unprecedented time.
“Know your value and how much you are worth. Push your boundaries as it will help you reach the sky and surround yourself with positive people.”
My biggest setback was… As I reflect on the last 10 years, two big challenges stand out for me. The first was learning how to get out of my own way. This meant letting go of what I think others expect of me and focusing on being myself. The second was learning how to juggle priorities as a working mother.
I overcame it by… Recognizing that I can’t do it all helped me learn how to trust and delegate.
One piece of advice that I often give but find it difficult to follow is…because I truly love my work and have ambitious career goals, it can be difficult for me to keep a healthy balance between work and my personal life.
The best thing about what I do is… I am creating a unique platform for marginalized women leaders to address economic justice. I also want these women leaders to support other women. I want them to stand together to raise their voice, fighting against poverty and social justice. We need more women acting as global leaders!
My best advice from a mentor was… The best advice I received from a mentor was to stand up against the odds. Know your value and how much you are worth. Push your boundaries as it will help you reach the sky and surround yourself with positive people.
I would tell my 21-year old self… To find the power of knowledge, aspire to inspire, and set periodic goals. To look for mentors and invest in relationships- be authentic, but see things through another lens. To embrace the opportunities that take you out of your comfort zone and learn from them. And finally, don’t let anyone define who you are and what you can do.
If you Googled me, you still would not know… In 2012, I was a co-host of a local fashion blog, Be-Inspired, in Nigeria. I love to paint, cook and have a keen interest in interior design.
The future excites me because… Professionally, there’s a lot to be excited about and manifest. A year ago, I remember thinking, “If only we could” do A, B or C. Now, we have actually made some of those wishes come true, and I have no doubt that we are on the right track. I can be a part of a group of inspiring global women leaders while also watching my daughter grow up at the same time. The strong people around me who collectively want to help others and make this world a better place make me excited.
My next step is…Innovating for the future by maintaining a dual focus on present performance and future trends and opportunities. I want to keep CCFWE adapting to change, to develop self-understanding, to go through renewal and self- preservation to keep improving as a leader. I am always looking for authenticity, talent, a clear vision, and the motivation to succeed. I will ensure continual high performance by all marginalized women leaders, leading to tangible progress toward the goals we wish to accomplish.