Ottawa Distinguished Women host second annual award ceremony

Three women hold a gift basket.
Ottawa women were recognized for their contributions to society during an event at La Maison De La Francophonie d’Ottawa on March 27. Photo by Mat Dicsi.

By Mat Dicsi

Ottawa Distinguished Women hosted its second annual award ceremony at La Maison De La Francophonie d’Ottawa on March 27, acknowledging the importance and impact of females in Ottawa. 

“These exceptional women, they are often the unsung heroes,” said Maria Ricci, chair of the organization. “What they do makes our lives so much better, so we want to put their history out there.”  

According to its website, Ottawa Distinguished Women’s mission statement is about inspiring young women and reflecting on the city’s rich diversity while “promoting local initiatives and organizations that recognize the positive value and impact” of the individuals. 

Recipients are chosen by votes and a panel of jurors made up of volunteers from different communities to purview the nominations once they come in.   

“We put it out in the community, ‘please send your nominations, there’s no deadlines’ although two or three times a year they are  given to the jurors,” said Ricci “It’s not a competition, nobody is in competition. It is entirely by merit. We review and go, ‘yeah, this is a story worth telling.’”  

The event gave the recipients of the awards a public acknowledgement of their achievements along with a custom pin and certificate signed by Mayor Mark Sutcliffe and presented by Anita Vandenbeld, Member of Parliament for Ottawa-West Nepean. 

Edith wearing a bright red jacket stands at a podium.
Ontario Lieutenant-Governor Edith Dumont gives a speech to the crowd. Photo by Mat Dicsi.

There were many prestigious government officials in attendance including Ontario Lieutenant-Governor Edith Dumont, who gave a passionate speech to the crowd. 

“It was an evening where we recognized amazing women who, all of them, somehow, had an impact in their connectivity and making their communities more sustainable in many ways,” Dumont told KT. “It was a very inspiring evening.”  

Making strides in gender equity 

The City of Ottawa has been making strides in gender equity with the

Women and Gender Equity Strategy, approved by City Council in April 2021.  

Though supported by the city, the Ottawa Distinguished Women get event funding from sources outside of the city. These businesses include The Precast Group, M Con Products, BMO, and The Properties Group. 

Ricci and her team ensure free attendance to the event to ensure everyone can attend, but their precautions with money don’t end there. 

“We’re very careful about not accepting money from honourees or a family member,” she said. “You don’t pay to be an honouree, there’s no money involved, and you can be alive or deceased. We just want to hear your story.” 

Salma is pressnted an award by Ottawa-West Nepean MPP Anita Vandenbeld.
Salma Siddiqui receives a certificate from Ottawa-West Nepean MP Anita Vandenbeld on March 27, 2024. Photo by Mat Dicsi.

One such story belongs to Salma Siddiqui. Born in Karachi, she moved to Canada as a young child. The Ottawa-based entrepreneur and community activist was one of the first 15 members chosen by the Government of Canada’s Cross Cultural Roundtable on National Security in the aftermath of 9/11.

Siddiqui was recipient of Ottawa Distinguished Women’s lifetime achievement award for her work on the Holocaust Monument.   

“I am humbled. I don’t even know who my nominator was,” said Siddiqui. “They recognized my contribution to the Holocaust Monument. I am a Muslim and I figured that to live in this country, we have to work together.”

More information about the works of Siddiqui and all other recipients of the awards can be found on the Ottawa Distinguished Women website. 

Bettina holds her fist to the air as she receives the certificate from Anita.
Bettina Vollmerhausen receives a certificate from Ottawa-West Nepean MP Anita Vandenbeld on March 27, 2017. Photo by Mat Dicsi.

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