Women in Defence and Security (WiDS) is set to recognize the 2019 recipient of the WiDS Memorial Scholarship, the organization will be hosting its annual WiDS Memorial Scholarship Breakfast on March 7.
“It’s a flagship of what we do. It encapsulates everything we stand for which is really highlighting defence and security as having inclusive and diverse career options for Canadian women. To be able to offer this scholarship gives these women a step in the door, a leg up. It’s really empowering them through an actual financial option to set them up for success,” said Lorena MacKenzie, WiDS vice president of communication.
Funded by WiDS members and the defence and security industry, the scholarship, worth $10,000, recognizes excellence and provides financial support to women pursuing further education in fields related to defence and security. To-date, the scholarship has provided over $100,000 to fifteen women.
“We promote the defence and security industry as a sustainable career path choice for Canadian women at all levels of their careers – from those at the cusp to seasoned veterans,” noted MacKenzie.
Additionally, in partnership with the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, WiDS provides a one-year fellowship opportunity for women pursuing graduate or post-graduate studies in the field, for professional development and to gain hands-on experience.
The WiDS Memorial Scholarship is typically awarded each year in memory of a woman killed in operation. This year, however, the organization chose to highlight mental health and will be awarding the scholarship in memory of women who have died by suicide due to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Operational Stress Injury (OSI), or other mental health challenges.
Because the award this year will be in memory of a group of women, the organization is working hard to ensure the cause is given a face to honour these women and provide hope to all those listening. A number of female speakers will be attending the breakfast to speak of their own personal journeys of recovery including former Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) member and Invictus participant Natacha Dupuis and an RCMP officer who, after reaching out for help, now brings a service dog to work.
Additionally, Dr. Sharon Johnston, wife of Canada’s previous Governor General and a passionate activist for mental health will be speaking at the breakfast. Dr. Johnston will be announcing the launch of a mental health portal on the WiDS website that will include sanctioned resources from the Department of Defence (DND), CAF, and RCMP, to name a few.
The goal of the breakfast is to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health and embrace the positive message of reaching out for help, says MacKenzie.
“It’s absolutely okay not to be okay sometimes, and it’s absolutely okay to ask for help when you need it. We’re seeing that message come down from the military right from the chief of the defence staff all the way through the ranks…we really want to break down the stigma around mental health, and are looking to the leaders in our industry to affect positive change” added MacKenzie.
The 2019 recipient of the WiDS Memorial Scholarship is yet to be announced.