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What do women in Nigeria, the United Nations and UHN Digital have in common? Annabelle Ramos.
Annabelle has worked at UHN for 10 years, spending nine years at the Rumsey Neuro Centre at Toronto Rehab, and currently working as a Training Coordinator with Digital Education.
In her free time, Annabelle volunteers with VIDES Canada, an organization dedicated to education and development for children, youth and women in situations of poverty and marginalization both in Canada and around the world. In her role with VIDES Canada as a Communications Officer, Annabelle wears many hats; she maintains the website, mentors volunteers who are sent overseas to work in impoverished communities, and works directly with refugees.
Recently, Annabelle was invited to address the Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations in New York City, including the UN Secretary-General António Guterres, to shed light on the circumstances faced by women and girls in Nigeria, who are being threatened with female genital mutilation, a harmful traditional practice, and dealing with the impacts of groups like Boko Haram.
"I was so nervous," Annabelle recalls. "I'm not a public speaker and prefer to work under the radar, so I was concerned that I might not do a good job.
"The assembly room had a large seating area equipped with microphones and earpieces, so that delegates can listen to the speeches in their preferred language. It was intimidating to have the floor, with a lot of important people listening to every word I had to say."
The UN can be an overwhelming place for first time visitors, Annabelle says.
'A buzz in the air'
"The protocol to get inside the headquarters is comparable to airport security – all of your belongings are inspected and you have to go through a metal detector. But, once you're past security, you find yourself in a beautiful courtyard filled with sculptures and flags from member nations, overlooking the East River.
"There's a buzz in the air, as people from all over the world run to their meetings."
Annabelle says her group decided on the focus of the speech "as a way to connect with other NGOs and to collaborate on initiatives that may effect change in the rural areas of Nigeria.
"I worked closely with the Human Rights office at the UN Headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, who helped me write my speech, and I thought about the women and their stories.
"These women have survived some horrific events, and I felt that their stories deserved to be heard. It's my responsibility to bring these stories to light."
For Annabelle, the experience of volunteering with Vides and speaking at the UN strengthened her belief in compassion, integrity and stewardship, core values at UHN.
"These values are the foundation for my work ethic," she says. "Helping others never feels like a chore to me; in fact it's a pleasure for me to be able to help my teammates at Digital Education and the various stakeholders that we support.
"I'm happy to be a part of the process that makes things run smoothly at UHN. I believe that no matter who you are, where you come from, or what you do in life – you are significant, your actions have impact, and you have the capacity to make a difference."