The elegant, The Carlu in the heart of Downtown Toronto saw nearly 400 proud supporters of the Daughters for Life Foundation (DFL) come together for the 5th Daughters for Life Gala Dinner on 17th November 2017. The Gala Dinner was held in honour of the many wonderful milestones and successes that the Daughters for Life Foundation has achieved in the past year.
A Cocktail Reception
The evening began with a Cocktail Reception inside The Carlu’s hisoric premises where guests were welcomed by the Founder, Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish and the team behind Daughters for Life Foundation. With a ‘Photo Opportunity’ at a Media Wall and a delectable array of food and drinks, guests mingled with each other and the special honorees of the night. With the music of DJ Marco Tellez in the backdrop, guests participated in a silent auction to raise money for the charity.
Minister Reza Moridi Opens 2017 DFL Gala
The Gala emcee was CP24’s Steve Anthony who charmed the guests with his wit and humour. The formal sit-down Gala Dinner commenced when Ontario’s Minister of Research and Innovation, the Honourable Reza Moridi delivered the opening remarks. A long-time supporter of Daughters for Life Foundation, Minister Moridi said in his speech:
“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. Together we can make a difference. Canada has committed to increasing its STEM graduates to 50,000 in the next five years. And we are working to overcome the historical barriers to women’s education. Dr. Abuelaish’s legacy is an inspiration.
Thank you, Dr. Abuelaish. You are truly the light in the darkness.”
There was strong representation from DFL’s academic/scholarship partners at the Gala Dinner like Ryerson University, Brock University, York University, McMaster University, Wilfrid Laurier University, College Boreal, Brescia University College, CultureWorks and the International Language Academy of Canada.
The entertainment of the evening featured performances by Lebanese-Canadian soprano Miriam Khalil and pianist Rachael Kerr. Miriam left the gathering spellbound with her soulful rendition of Gibran Khalil Gibran’s poem ‘Aatini el Naya wa Ghanni’, which is interpreted as “Give me the flute and sing”.
DFL Scholars Share their Story
The annual Daughters for Gala Dinner is a moment for the foundation to pause and applaud the brilliant young women from the Middle East who have excelled beyond the scope of the scholarships they were awarded to become skilled, empowered women who are in charge of their destiny. Over the past seven years since the inception of Daughters for Life Foundation, we have helped nearly 400 young women from the Middle East complete their higher education. One such success story, DFL scholar Hiba Miari delivered this year’s scholars speech.
DFL Scholar Hiba, a 3rd year Biology student at Wilfrid Laurier University, a future scientist and a soccer player received a standing ovation for her powerful words. She said, “I am what I work hard to achieve. I prefer to be judged for my education rather than my sex and my family name. Education is the most peaceful fight against injustice and the most rewarding investment. When you educate a female, you educate an entire society.”
The event progressed on to an on-stage panel discussion with other DFL scholars, moderated by Dr. James Orbinski, who is a globally recognized humanitarian practitioner and the former President of Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors without Borders). Yousra Benradi, Ayaat Labbad, Eva Gorgy, Darah Al Shalabi, Mayar Tharowat and Eman Altabash shared with the audience the impact of the DFL scholarship on their lives.
“This scholarship is like a gift,” said Ayaat who overcame the hardship of leaving her home in Syria and surviving as a refugee for five years before she was selected by the Daughters for Life Scholarship program. Yousra from Morocco spoke of how the DFL scholarship, “has opened many doors” for her and has given her “hope and a new vision for the future.” Studying Physics at Wilfrid Laurier University, Mayar shared how she founded the college’s first robotics club. And that she was “proud to be a female in the STEM field.” The panel discussion with the DFL scholars concluded with thundering applause from the audience.
The Luminary Awards Presentation
It was now time for the Daughters for Life Luminary Awards, which the foundation has instituted in memory of Bessan, Mayar and Aya Abuelaish. The Luminary Awards go to individuals who have made significant contributions to promoting the rights of girls and women around the world.
Canada’s youngest Olympic Gold medalist, Penny Oleksiak was presented the Trailblazer Luminary Award. Humbled by the honour, Oleksiak said that “just like sports, knowledge should also cross borders.” She urged the audience to “work together to make this global village a better place for everyone.”
The other honour of the night, the Lifetime Achievement Luminary Award was presented to Canada’s literary great, Margaret Atwood for her tremendous contribution to Canadian literature and culture.
Accepting the Luminary Award, Atwood said in her speech, “An educated woman can make informed choices about health, nutrition, environment. An educated woman is a benefit to societies. More educated girls mean more female leaders, lower population growth and slower climate change. Women have an undeniable impact on the GDP of an economy. They reduce poverty and infant mortality. Why would a sensible country not invest in women’s education? Educated women lead change.”
With Ms. Atwood’s birthday just a day after the DFL Gala night, the foundation members surprised her with a birthday cake on stage and soprano Miriam Khalil sang her ‘Happy Birthday’ in her melodious voice to a standing crowd. It was a beautiful moment that had the audience break into a long applause.
Gala Chair and Board Member Bogumila Lapinski Anaya closed the 2017 DFL Gala Dinner by thanking all the sponsors and partners for their support.