International Women's Day Forum

Join us virtually on 6 March 2024 at 6pm EST as we celebrate professional women and entrepreneurs for an evening of keynote speakers, skills-building,  fireside chats, and professional tips. 

Learn more or register now below. We look forward to having you.


We are so proud to be joined by so many amazing speakers and our President and CEO for this event.

Saminder Bhalesar (President and CEO, CSAWCC)

Sitting as the President and CEO, Saminder is the Founder of the Canadian South Asian Women's Chamber of Commerce (CSAWCC) and will be delivering opening and introductory remarks during this event.

Rana Bokhari

Rana Bokhari stands as a beacon of transformative change, embodying the essence of diversity, resilience, and groundbreaking leadership. As a distinguished lawyer with a focus on First Nations Employment Law and governance, Rana brings a unique, holistic approach to crisis management, blending legal expertise with compassionate, comprehensive solutions. Her journey extends beyond the courtroom into the realms of politics, entrepreneurship, and advocacy, making her a multifaceted force for progress.

In 2013, Rana shattered glass ceilings as the first female Muslim, the first woman of color, and the youngest individual to ascend as Party Leader in a Manitoba political parties history - a testament to her trailblazing spirit and unwavering determination. Her career, marked by a passion for public service, has been dedicated to championing intersectional feminism, combating racism, and advocating for women's rights across Canada.

Rana's entrepreneurial spirit is equally compelling. As the founder of Nexa HR One, she has revolutionized Human Resources, offering innovative solutions that prioritize empathy and effectiveness. Her commitment to justice extends to her advocacy for Muslim prisoners and her founding of Asbestos Free Water, illustrating her dedication to both humanitarian causes and environmental health.

A lover of love, Rana's personal philosophy is grounded in the power of compassion, equality, and justice. Her voice resonates on stages like TedX, where she shares her journey as a young, Pakistani, Muslim woman navigating the complexities of leadership in a multicultural world.

Ericka Ushliyanage

Ericka Ushliyanage, is a mom of two active and loving boys, entrepreneur, Team Manager/Mortgage Agent with Mortgage Approvals Ottawa and Life Coach. She is a graduate of Carleton University with a degree in Political Science and later completed the Management Development Program for Women with the Sprott School of Business.

Her earlier career was focused in non-profit including time with the YMCA-YWCA where she worked with newcomers to Canada and those in our community seeking help finding employment. She enjoys a new sense of fulfillment now helping her clients to become homeowners, real estate investors and financially sound. Her focus for clients is to educate them on the process and work with them to develop long term plans. She has been a team manager at her brokerage for the last three years, coaching agents on the team on how to build a business and with a focus of moving them into managerial positions. Ericka was a regular volunteer with the Sri Lanka Canada Association of Ottawa for many years and most recently was a board member with FemCity Ottawa Chapter. 

She is currently on the board of Canadian Women of Colour Leadership Network as the Director of Outreach and Awareness and hosts a monthly spotlight speaker series on their IG platform. Her next projects will focus on ways to advocate for women and children leaving domestic abuse and violence in our community. Ericka is in process of completing her coaching certification with the Jay Shetty Certification School as part of opening her life coaching consultancy. She hopes that others use her as an example that despite adversity and the challenges we face, we must always seek to fulfill our dreams no matter how others may respond. Being your best you is the greatest gift you can give to those around you. 

Nujhat Bashir

Ms. Nujhat Bashir is a Policy Analyst with Procurement Assistance Canada specializing in assisting Women entrepreneurs and businesses led by women. 

As part of this role, Nujhat helps support business in the Ontario region by engaging with them and sharing information about how to access procurement opportunities with the Federal Government.

Nujhat has been with the Government of Canada for approximately 10 years and has engaged with companies of all sizes in her roles within Global Affairs Canada’s, Trade: Export Controls Bureau, the Build in Canada Innovation Program (currently Innovative Solutions Canada) and also at the Embassy of Canada in Washington D.C.

Neelam Toprani

Neelam Toprani is an Ayurvedic researcher and formulator of Sewanti herbal remedies.

She is a teacher and lecturer and is passionate in sharing her lifelong knowledge in business and her healing journey through personal experiences.

Neelam has studied various healing modalities and eastern spiritualities from many masters and offers a practical approach to health and wellness through Ayurveda, yoga and meditation.

Laura McLellan

Laura McLellan is a Financial Advisor with Edward Jones.

Her passion lies in empowering others, particularly women, to take control of their financial future. Laura works with clients to set financial goals and create a holistic and tailored plan to make those goals achievable. Laura holds the DFSA and MFA-P designations and is a recent MBA graduate from Dalhousie University. Outside of work Laura is a busy wife and mother of three teenagers and two rescue dogs. 

Laura co-chairs the parent council at her children’s school and is a committed volunteer with Freedom Dog Rescue. An avid runner, Laura can often be found running along the canal or through the beautiful Ottawa greenbelt.

Romie Dhaliwal 

Dr. Dhaliwal has been practicing optometry in Manitoba since 2011. She was born and raised in Winnipeg, Manitoba and attended the University of Winnipeg where she completed her B.Sc. in Biology. She then moved to Chicago, Illinois to complete her doctorate of Optometry degree at the Illinois College of Optometry. Dr. Dhaliwal has done clinical rotations in pediatrics/binocular vision, cornea and contact lens, advanced care, and low vision. On her rotations she worked in Chicago, IL, Albert Lea Eye Clinic-MayoHealth System, MN, Mid-Florida Eye Center in Mount Dora, FL, and the Veterans Association Medical Center in Providence, RI.

Dr. Dhaliwal has worked closely in clinical and surgical settings with many different Ophthalmologists all over the US. She has gained experience in many fields with the diagnosis, management and prevention of eye diseases, vision therapy, cataract pre-operative and post-operative management, glaucoma, and retinal diseases. She has a special interest in the treatment of chronic dry eye and myopia management. With the growing concern of myopia in children, she recently completed her certification in CooperVision's Brilliant Futures Myopia Management Program. It is the first and only one day contact lens approved by the FDA for slowing the progression of myopia in children.

She is a current member of the Canadian Association of Optometrists, Manitoba Association of Optometrists, Canadian Optometrists in Vision Therapy & Rehabilitation, the Awards Committee, and the Mentor Committee. She has completed her Practical Vision Therapy Accreditation Program with COVT&R. Dr. Dhaliwal helps mentor new grads and enjoys teaching and being observed by students who show a particular interest in the field of Optometry.

She enjoys seeing patients of all ages, from newborns to the elderly, and is passionate about educating her patients about their eye health.

Dr. Dhaliwal is a big advocate of supporting small businesses as you are supporting a dream, and growing your local community! So in her spare time you can often find her with her husband and kids supporting local restaurants, breweries and markets in Winnipeg. To stay active, she enjoys Peloton workouts, bootcamps and kickboxing. She hopes to get back into martial arts and complete her blackbelt in Taekwondo.

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