For their contributions to advancing equality in their communities and the territory at large, Doreen Arrowmaker and Tammy Roberts were celebrated Saturday at the Status of Women Council of NWT Wise Women awards.
Recognized her work with the Foster Family Coalition, the Royal Canadian Legion and the SideDoor Youth Centre, Roberts said she is honoured to receive this year’s North Slave Wise women award.
In acknowledgement of her achievements, Roberts said her kids are always pushing her to be better. “We cannot do what we do unless we have a family behind us,” Roberts said. That’s why, she told attendees, she is accepting the award on behalf of herself and her family.
Having cared for approximately 250 children as a foster parent, Roberts said people often call her a saint, however, “I’m the same as everybody else,” she said. “I’m stubborn, I don’t give up, and I want other people to know that they can have a huge impact on somebody and they just don’t know it.”
As the wise women award recipient from the Tlicho region, Arrowmaker echoed Roberts’ sentiments of gratitude.
“I didn’t grasp the vastness of this, what it means to be a role model,” she said.
Arrowmaker has worked for the Gameti Housing Authority for the last six years, and was narrowly defeated in her bid to become chief in the last election – the first woman in Gameti to ever run for the position. She recently received a Master’s degree in Global Management and hopes to one day pursue a PhD.
“I’m always for women in equality, I stand for what’s fair and just. I try to help women advance to a greater destiny,” she said.
Daphne Apples, Arrowmaker’s niece who travelled with her from Gameti, said she is inspired by her aunt. “She makes me want to do something great,” Apples said.
Louise Elder, executive director of the Status of Women Council, called the award ceremony “a reason to stop and celebrate.”
She said it’s a time to honour these women for their contributions, with the knowledge that there are so many other women out there making contributions to their communities too.
“It encourages us to just make that space to think about how far we’ve come in advancing gender equality in our territory, and how far we have to go,” she said.
In comparing her experiences to those of her daughters, Elder said its clear progress has been made but notes the Covid pandemic as having forced steps backwards in achieving gender equality.
More women have lost jobs, more women have had to make sacrifices in their career or family lives and the risk of violence has escalated during the pandemic, Elder said.
As the minister responsible for the Status of Women, Caroline Wawzonek acknowledged that she was honoured to be present at the celebration in her role of minister, though the history of inequality underlying the need for the celebration, “is one where women were not always seen or acknowledged,” she said.
“Today, we are celebrating wise women who have helped create a better world and more equitable future for all. The women who received this award are stories to inspire us all.”