16 June, 2016
June Girvan and Denise Siele are two of the best known Black women in the Ottawa region and beyond, Acknowledged for their selfless leadership, volunteerism and community advocacy, these two prominent women were featured in a landmark publication titled: “100 Accomplished Black Canadian Women”. The book was the brainchild of Jean Augustine and was co-authored by Hon.Dr. Jean Augustine, Duana Jones-Simmonds and Dr.Denise O’Neal Green. The publication highlights the accomplishments and contributions of esteemed Black women leaders and activists from across the country.The Hon. Jean Augustine and Her Honour, the Lt.Gov. Elizabeth Dowdeswell were on hand at the launch of the book at a gala at the Brighton Convention & Event Center on Thursday 16 June.
June Girvan is no stranger to such honours as her exemplary civic achievements over the past several years have been acknowledged far and wide. In November 2014, the Canadian Race Relations Foundation celebrated her accomplishments by presenting her with the Community Champion Special Award at the 2014 Awards of Excellence, held in Ottawa. June is also a past recipient of the Martin Luther King DreamKeepers’ award for her distinguished community leadership and engagement.This past January, she was one of twenty distinguished people invested with the prestigious Order of Ontario, by the Honourable Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario and Chancellor of the Order of Ontario.
June is founder of the J’Nikira Dinqinesh Education Centre in Ottawa, which serves children, youth and immigrant families through unique programs that foster intercultural understanding, racial harmony and social justice. She is currently Acting President of Black History Ottawa, a registered Canadian charitable organisation devoted to promoting education and research, on the accomplishments and contribution of people of African descent to the Canadian mosaic.
Denise Siele said politics is in her blood. Born in Nairobi, Kenya, Siele moved to Ottawa as a young teenager when her mother, a diplomat, was posted here. When her term was over, Siele’s mother moved back to Kenya to run for public office, the first woman in her community to do so. “I think she ran twice in total and while she didn’t win either time, she inspired others. When she retired from politics, a young woman in the constituency said: ‘Well, if she can do it, I can do it.’ And she subsequently ran and won,” Siele described. Watching her mother’s campaign, Siele too was inspired to get involved. She discovered Equal Voice, an organization that advocates for women in all levels of politics in Canada. As the Director of Strategic Initiatives and Operations, Siele works to engage young women from across the country to consider the role that they can play in politics. She said she loves the cooperative nature of the organization. “What I love most is when women from all political stripes are gathered within the Equal Voiceumbrella…the stereotypical view of politics is thrown out the window,” she said. Over the years, Siele said she has worked on upwards of 10 political campaigns, but she has many additional interests and responsibilities. She is also managing partner of the strategic events and public affairs company, SEMgroup, as well as an active philanthropist and mother. Focusing on youth, Siele has been extremely involved in many charitable organizations; she is the Chair of the Board for a Fund for a New Generation, founder and Chair of the Black Women’s Civic Engagement Network and a past Director of the Youth Services Bureau Charitable Foundation—to name just a few. “The joy that you get from giving back is incredible, such a good feeling and I don’t want to deny myself that,” she said. “I just love my community and I want to do what I can to give back.” (Source: Ottawa Life Magazine)