Lily Pourzand is an outstanding Social Services leader with over a decade of leadership practices in the Violence Against Women’s sector. She is known as an expert in gender-based violence, intersectionality, inclusivity and accessibility. Although she believes in every woman’s story’s uniqueness, she is also interested in highlighting the collective commonalities that women face. Advocating for a more equitable and accessible world for girls and women has been at the forefront of Lily’s personal and professional life. Public education, motivational speaking, storytelling and independent writing are a few of her passions.
Lily is a first-generation immigrant woman who came to Canada in search of political safety and personal freedom in 1999 after graduating from law school in Tehran, Iran. Despite a challenging immigration process, Lily still believes that her life experiences have led her to be a strong advocate for women with a deeper understanding of systematic discrimination. She has used these experiences to shape her leadership skills in both her public and professional life.
Lily graduated from York University with a Bachelor’s degree in Women and Gender studies in 2007. She continued her education and graduated with a Master’s in law from the Osgoode Hall Law school in 2010, focusing on the intersection of socio-legal barriers in women’s lives. But that was not the end; in 2013, Lily obtained her Life Skills Coaching certificate from George Brown College. Finally, she received a certificate in Managing a Unionized Work Environment from Schulich School of Business in 2016.
In 2011, Lily started to work as a Women’s Support Counsellor at the Women’s Centre of York Region. Providing support to women encouraged Lily to refocus on her passion for writing and public speaking to echo the real challenges women face. As a result, Lily established her blog on the Huffington Post Canada website and utilized that platform to express her opinions on gender equality. Her pieces include but are not limited to; “International Day of the Girl Child: Looking to the Future of Women,“ “Let’s Present the Voice of the First-Generation Immigrant Women in the Media,” and “Working Mothers in Canada: The Policies and Contradictions“. Lily also was invited to appear as an expert guest speaker on several TV and Radio shows, including CBC News and Here and Now.
In 2014, a short snap of her life narrative was featured in the Canadian Women’s Studies Journal titled “The Extraordinary Life of a Daughter of the Revolution.“ Lily always utilizes her public speaking and storytelling skills to highlight gender equality. She was the keynote speaker at several events, such as Amnesty International Annual Gala.
Lily’s passion for change and growth motivated her to step into politics in 2014 when she announced her candidacy for the Federal Liberal Nomination from one of Toronto’s most diverse ridings. Her main goal was to run a grassroots campaign to engage more immigrant women in political discussions and debates. During her political campaign, Lily was expecting her first child. Her daughter was born halfway through the campaign. Lily challenged socially constructed stigmas around mothering and social-political activities.
Lily is a proud mother. Her now 7-year-old daughter is the center of her motivation to advocate for gender equality with the hope of a better future for the next generation of girls.
In 2015, Lily accepted a new position at Sandgate Women’s Shelter of York Region Inc. She was responsible for overseeing the 24 hours emergency shelter program for women and children fleeing immediate abuse. Since 2018, Lily works as the Community Programs Manager, directing service delivery to women and children in the community to live an abuse-free life. She is also responsible for planning and delivering public education events. She is well-known for her innovative initiatives for organizational partnerships and collaborations.
Lily’s core leadership principle is rooted in her strong feminist, anti-oppression and anti-racism framework. Building trust and nurturing it through transparency and supportive leadership have been critical in her career success. She is proud of what she does every day and enjoys every single minute of her work.
In 2015, Lily began to teach as a part-time faculty at Seneca College, teaching gender equality, diversity and inclusion. She engages her students in interactive discussions to learn about gender equality, diversity and inclusion in practical ways.
Women’s individual and collective narratives are the source of her inspiration. Lily believes personal is political and private is public when it comes to gender equality, diversity, inclusivity and accessibility.