TORONTO: Earlier this month, the 5th Daughters for Life Foundation (DFL) Gala held its annual event at the Carlu in Toronto. Every year, the Daughters for Life Foundation celebrates individuals who have made significant contributions to promoting the rights of girls and women around the world. This year’s Gala attracted more than 400 guests in honour of Canadian literary icon, Margaret Atwood, and Olympic Gold Medalist, Penny Oleksiak, as well as several young women who recently arrived in Canada from across the Middle East on scholarships at partner institutions.
“Educated women lead change. An educated woman can make informed choices about health, nutrition, environment,” said Margaret Atwood, who received the Lifetime Achievement Luminary Award for her tremendous contribution to Canadian literature and culture. “More educated girls mean more female leaders, lower population growth and slower climate change. Why would a sensible country not invest in women’s education?”
Canada’s youngest Olympic Gold medalist, Penny Oleksiak was presented with the Trailblazer Luminary Award. “Just like sports, knowledge should also cross borders,” said Oleksiak. She urged the audience to “work together to make this global village a better place for everyone.”
The evening began with a cocktail reception and silent auction where guests enjoyed photo opportunities with honorees to the music of DJ Marco Tellez. The MC for the night was CP24’s Steve Anthony, who charmed guests with his wit and humour. Long-time DFL supporter, The Honourable Reza Moridi, Minister of Research, Innovation and Science, opened the evening.
“A strong, educated woman is a powerful force for peace. And the world will not be a just and fair place until everyone has a chance to fulfill their dreams,” said Minister Moridi. “Together we can make a difference.”
A stunning musical performance by Lebanese-Canadian soprano Miriam Khalil and pianist Rachael Kerr left the room speechless while setting the tone for the personal stories of individual DFL scholars from Syria, Palestine, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt and Morocco.
“I am what I work hard to achieve. I prefer to be judged for my education rather than my sex and my family name, “said Hiba Miari, a 3rd year Biology student and soccer player. “Education is the most peaceful fight against injustice and the most rewarding investment. When you educate a female, you educate an entire society.”
The on-stage panel discussion with the DFL scholars was moderated by Dr. James Orbinski, who is a globally recognized humanitarian practitioner and the former President of Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors without Borders).
“This scholarship is like a gift,” said Ayaat Labbad, who left her home in Syria and had been living in a refugee camp for five years before she was selected by the Daughters for Life Scholarship program.
The discussion concluded with thundering applause from the audience, and the evening culminated with a surprise for Margaret Atwood who was celebrating her birthday the following day. The audience joined together in singing “Happy Birthday” as Atwood blew out candles on a cake.
The Gala was made possible by Gold Sponsors the DMZ at Ryerson University and Gomberg Mediation Solutions Inc. The University of Toronto, Spin Master, Lee LLP and UBS were the Silver Sponsors, joined by community supporters Royal Synergies Collision, Rashid & Quinney, RSC, PanEx, Regulus Investments, ISX and Juno Fertility.
Academic partners for the event included The University of Toronto, York University, Ryerson University, Trent University, Brock University, University of Guelph, McMaster University, Collège Boréal, Wilfred Laurier, University of Windsor, Mohawk College, Centennial College, International Language Academy of Canada (ILAC) and Culture Works.