Empowering women leaders for more than half a century

The enduring partnership between the Catholic Women’s League of Canada and Coady International Institute at StFX University

Velma Harasen in front of the Rev. Dr. Moses M. Coady mosaic wall at Coady International Institute.

Velma Harasen’s eyes light up as she tours the modern campus of Coady International Institute, located at St. Francis Xavier University in the small northeastern Nova Scotia town of Antigonish. The national president of the Catholic Women’s League of Canada was was able to sneak in a one-day visit between provincial conventions in the Maritimes – a visit she’d been hoping to make for several years.

Since 1959, the world-renowned Institute has had more than 6,000 graduates and partners working in 130 countries. The CWL of Canada has been providing scholarship support since 1961 so women around the world can attend the Coady Institute’s leadership development programs. Last year, four women from Uganda, Zimbabwe, Tanzania and Kenya took the Institute’s flagship 19-week Diploma in Development Leadership program.

Velma Harasen shared some thoughts about this longstanding relationship during a brief interview at the end of her tour.

This is the first time you’ve visited the Coady campus. What has your impression been so far?

VH: “I’ve been extremely impressed. I saw pictures of the official opening (2009) out in front of the new building so it’s a real thrill to be here. I’ve been a supporter of the Coady for a very long time in various positions on the national executive. And it was always a dream to be able to come. And I met Lori Ward [Manager, Fundraising and Communications] and Mary Coyle [former Director] on our trip to India and Nepal, so Lori and I have kept in fairly close contact and kept hoping this would happen. And it just so happens I’m here for the New Brunswick provincial CWL convention which was this past weekend and I’m going on to Dartmouth for the Nova Scotia provincial convention this upcoming weekend, so this seemed to be the perfect time in between and it all fell into place. It’s a real blessing.”

There seems to be real symmetry between the Catholic Women’s League of Canada and the Coady Institute. Can you talk about that?

VH:  “Well I think it’s so important to empower women and teach women self-esteem and leadership, and then to be able to put that into practice in their own communities. And we’re trying to do that with our Catholic Women’s League as well, because I think it’s important to develop leadership in the church and within their communities.

This is wonderful work the Coady does to empower these women and then they go back into their own communities and have these projects that are just absolutely amazing, and that we were able to see when we were there (India and Nepal). I think I mentioned to you that when we were in Nepal, they were building a hospital and they had a health centre and they had a school. And one gentleman said every time a Coady graduate comes back, we start a brand new project. And you can see what it’s done in their communities. It’s really quite remarkable.”

RP: Can you explain how CWL supports the Coady?

VH: “It’s a national voluntary fund so that our individual parish councils - and we have some 1,300 across the country that wish to contribute - they channel their funding either directly to Coady or through our national office. And through that we’re able to establish bursaries for students from developing countries to cone and study here. Depending on the contributions we get but generally, it’s from three to four bursaries that we’re able to provide. And we’d love to do more, so we’ll educate our members even more about Coady. It’s just an absolute delight to be here and to see what this facility is doing. It’s wonderful.”


2011 CWL scholarship recipients


Patricia Ngwerume, Zimbabwe

“CWL has afforded me the opportunity to come and learn new ideas through the staff and sharing with others from different countries across the world. I really feel that when I go back home I will be able to impact change through the existing organization’s structures.”

 Theodora Mtejeta, Tanzania

“I came to the Coady Institute to get knowledge and increase my leadership skills.”

   Alice Kirambi, Kenya
“My Coady education will contribute to an improvement in my management of my organization, using the principles of the Antigonish Movement.”

 Nora Makubuya, Uganda

“I will learn new skills and knowledge from the Coady facilitators, fellow participants and the Antigonish community, to make a positivie change when I go back home and become and effective leader.”