With details coming together on this fall’s Indigenous Circumpolar Women’s Gathering in Yellowknife, Dene Nahjo is delighted to announce that Sheila Bassi-Kellett has joined the organizing team as executive conference lead.
A former deputy minister with nearly three decades of experience working in both municipal and territorial positions, Bassi-Kellett brings with her a profound knowledge of Northern politics and the dynamic roles women have to play in the policy-making, management and day-to-day operations of our communities and governments.
Having an opportunity to center that knowledge on a gathering for indigenous women, looking at circumpolar best practices across geographical and cultural boundaries, was one Bassi-Kellett said she could not pass up.
‘To look at an opportunity like the gathering, which is really looking at enhancing opportunities for capacity building, for political engagement, for leadership development – it doesn’t get better than that,’ Bassi-Kellett said. ‘I just thought this was such a powerful thing to be able to do, to really strengthen and enhance people’s abilities to advance and put themselves out there for leadership opportunities.’
During her time working in various communities, Bassi-Kellett said she observed key differences in the roles men and women played in government, from the barriers they faced, to the recognition they received, to the ways in which they approached their duties.
‘There is a gender difference, and I think it’s so important to look at it from a gendered perspective so that we can strengthen and enhance the representation of women in leadership roles,’ she said.
Whereas women are typically engaged in the ‘hands-on, fundamental developmental stuff at a community level,’ Bassi-Kellett said men often occupy regional or territorial positions, which often come with a higher profile and more pay.
‘The stuff that had the immediate impact on people locally was dealt with for the most part by female leaders. I think that’s powerful and really respect that, but I think that’s a skill set that will also transfer to broader levels,’ she said.
With upcoming elections taking place at the municipal, territorial and national level – as well as international ones – Bassi-Kellett says there is no time like the present to begin building on the leadership capacity of Indigenous, Northern women to step into new roles and make positive change across the circumpolar world.
She sees the gathering as a crucial starting point for increased engagement and a pivotal forum to discuss solutions to shared and unique barriers to women entering the political arena, foremost in its intention to create a supportive and mentoring relationship among its attendees.
‘To have that kind of connection and network, to look at those role models to see what they’re doing and how they’re doing it, to be inspired by that and connect with that, I think that’s a really important part: the network we need to establish,’ Bassi-Kellett said.
By Meagan Wohlberg