by Stephen Dafoe
Cardiff resident Susan Evans will be recognized as an advocate and an unsung hero at a United Nations International Woman’s Day Celebration in St. Albert Mar. 5.
For the past 20 years, the St. Albert Bahá’í community has sponsored an annual celebration of United Nations International Women’s Day by recognizing the contributions women make to society.
It was Evans contributions to society as a passionate and hard-working advocate for children and families that led to her nomination this year.
The recipient said she was surprised and humbled to learn she would receive the award. “At first, I felt disbelief, then shock, and then I was humbled,” Evans said. “I appreciated [the] thoughtfulness, the time, and effort of the nominator, but I really did not expect my nomination would go far just because I know and hear of so many exceptional women doing extraordinary work in our communities and beyond.”
Evan’s nomination indicated she was led to an understanding of the importance of education in being successful in life through her work as a probation officer.
Her advocacy work began when she gave birth to her son and found it necessary to advocate for special programs funding. Evans brought parents facing the same funding cuts together, and she began advocating on behalf of the affected children and their families. As a result of that advocacy, the government reinstated funding.
Evans continued her advocacy while serving on the provincial school parents’ council. Concerned about the government’s plans to integrate all types of learners in the same classroom without having adequate supports in place, Evans worked to understand all the resources needed to support the proposed change. When the provincial parent council hit a dead end, Evans joined a political party to get the ear of her MLA on the issue.
That led to a policy committee and the development of an education resolution accepted by and promoted by the party. Though defeated, she felt the experience with policy development gave her a better understanding of the process.
“For me advocacy starts with listening and really understanding people’s stories; it is about understanding people’s emotions; it’s about validating,” Evans said. “Often many stories are the same but are being said differently. It’s also trying to understand the why’s, both internally and externally, and then taking the individual puzzle pieces and forming a picture. Advocacy is a respectful process — respectful of all. It’s about harnessing people’s stories, emotions, energy and working towards a common goal and solution. Sometimes, it’s also understanding the solution may not be achieved immediately or in one’s lifetime.”
In the end, it’s about the journey for Evans, a journey where she stays true to her values and creating a sense of togetherness. “It’s about laughing, crying, being angry or frustrated, celebrating — together. It’s about overcoming barriers — together. It’s about exploring and taking the puzzle pieces to form that picture — together. It’s about affecting change — together. It’s about empowering people — together. It’s about helping individuals finding their voice — together. It’s about saying, “You matter” — together. It’s about saying, “You are not alone” — together.”
Evans said when the advocacy journey is over; people’s paths may never cross again, but it’s all OK with her. “[I]n the end you remember the smiles and the journey, and you can only hope that in some small way you have made a difference — together,” Evans said.
The Cardiff resident and Sturgeon County Councillor is one of five recipients this year. Other recipients include Hazel McKennitt (Aboriginal Initiatives, Education), Joanna Pearse (Youth Empowerment, Education, and Unsung Heroine), Elaine Caron (Community Involvement, Senior), and Diana Goldie (Personal Philanthropy and Humanitarian).
The United Nations International Women’s Day Celebration will be held Saturday, Mar. 5 at 7:30 p.m. at the Cornerstone Hall (6 Tache Street, St. Albert). The event is sponsored by the Baha’i Community of St. Albert and admission is a suggested $10 donation at the door.