Celebrating women in leadership

·3 min read

On March 8, as the world was celebrating women and raising awareness about social, cultural, political and economic inequities, four Kanehsata’kehró:non women were embarking on a new empowering journey.

This year’s edition of the International Women’s Day was marked by the launching of the second cohort of StartUP Nations Ikwe, a collective entrepreneurship program developed for Onkwehón:we women. A group of 15 women were selected across Onkwehón:we communities in Quebec, including Kanesatake.

For the next 13 weeks, StartUP Nations Ikwe will offer a series of online workshops in entrepreneurship and social economy - an economic framework based on the collective instead of the individual.

The bilingual project is a collaboration between the First Nations of Quebec and Labrador Economic Development Commission (FNQLEDC) and the First Nations Social Economy Regional Table, in partnership with Quebec Native Women.

“Through the StartUP Nations Ikwe, the FNQLEDC wishes to help First Nations women implement projects about what they are passionate about, and which meet the needs of their respective communities,” said FNQLEDC director general Mickel Robertson.

The workshops will not only dive into finance, communication and marketing skills, but also address the Onkwehón:we socioeconomics and cultural issues women face on a daily basis.

One of the participants, Kanehsata’kehró:non Kyla-Emma Kanieten:hawi, knows how challenging being a young mother and a young entrepreneur can be. The 25-year-old is either juggling her catering business she owns with her mother, Kate’s Katering, or at home raising her two sons. Kanieten:hawi is looking to gain new relationships, advice and constructional criticism with StartUP Nations.

“Being part of this makes me feel empowered and very fortunate to be an Indigenous woman in today’s world,” said Kanieten:hawi. “It would be amazing to come out of this with developing ideas that could benefit our community in the future.”

This is the first time that the FNQLEDC’s initiative is strictly for women. The two previous editions, in 2017 and 2019, were initially looking to support First Nations youth in growing their entrepreneurship skills.

Kanesatake participant Jennifer Trentin also believes that being a woman and a mother brings her towards a more social-economic model of business.

“Because one of the key components is a “what do people need and how can I help?” mindset, which tends to be more prevalent in a woman’s perspective of the world,” she said.

Trentin explained that she has been inspired by a lot of community members, namely her friend Karyn Wahsontiiostha Murray, the woman behind Gardens of Hope in Kanesatake, which provide locally-grown food baskets for the community’s food bank. While Trentin is currently living in Montreal, she’s planning on returning soon to Kanesatake as she feels like it’s now her turn to contribute to the community.

The participant’s desire to develop personal skills in order to elevate their own communities is at the heart of StartUP Nations Ikwe. For Kanesatake Economic Development project coordinator Nadia Robertson, this could also act as a healing process as it will force participants to work together toward the same goal.

“It’s a way of building the participant’s confidence while creating a community’s project with strong cooperation values,” said Robertson.


Virginie Ann, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eastern Door