Mercy Lawluvi

Executive Director

Mechthild Meyer

Board Chair

Sadaf Kachalia

Vice Chair

Juliet Woodfield


Sa Yu


Martina Dionne

Board Member

Bernadeth Betchi

Board Member

Yael Kolet

Board Member

Barbara Nzigiye

Board Member

Avril Espinosa-Malpica

Board Member

Diane Tuyishime

Board Member

Lori-Ann McDonald

Board Member

Meriem Bougrassa

Board Member

Sarah Virani

Board Member

Laurie Jaeger

Past Chair

Joan Gullen

Life member

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Mercy Lawluvi – Executive Director

Mercy is a keen advocate on women’s rights and she continues to work tirelessly to raise awareness of issues affecting women including Gender Based Violence. She is constantly motivated to create positive change in the lives of women, particularly those who face multiple challenges.

Mercy is actively involved within the Ottawa community and represents IWSO in partnerships such as the Local Agencies Serving Immigrants (LASI), Ontario Coalition of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI) and many others. Mercy is also a vice-president of World Skills Employment Centre, co-chair of the OLIP Language Sector Table and she sits on several advisory tables such as OCASI’s Prevention of Sexual Violence and Harassment Project and the Women Reducing Poverty Together Project. Mercy is one of the leaders of the Nationwide Gender Equality Network Canada (GENC).

Mercy has a background in Teaching, Business Management and Social Work


Joan Gullen - Life Member 

Joan Gullen has made a significant contribution to the Ottawa community. A social worker by profession, Joan not only identified the social issues in the society, but worked tirelessly to find the solutions to these issues.

She was instrumental in establishing many worthy programs and services in the community. Joan is one of the founding members of the Snowsuit Fund of Ottawa, Interval House of Ottawa, the Regional Coordinating Committee to End Violence Against Women (RCCEVAW) and known as the Ottawa Coalition to End Violence Against Women (OCTEVAW) and IWSO to name a few.

Joan participated on numerous Boards and committees including the United Way/Centraide Ottawa. She was the first Chairperson of IWSO’s Board of Directors, and continued on the Board till the end of her term. In 2000, Joan was named a Life Member and continues to serve on the Board.

Laurie Jaeger- Past Chair

Laurie Jaeger has worked in administrative and client service roles at Carleton University for over 25 years.  She has extensive experience in project and staff administration, as well as managing operational plans and budgets, including program and policy implementation.

Laurie has been a volunteer ESL teacher, a volunteer website developer and has volunteered with Education at Work Ontario.  Laurie has a degree in Linguistics from Carleton University, and continues to pursue professional development courses, including conflict management, crisis intervention and human rights in the workplace.

Laurie has had several opportunities to travel abroad, and has a strong appreciation for human diversity in our society, and is committed to the vision of IWSO.


Sarah Virani - Board Member

Sarah is a healthcare lawyer at Gowling WLG in Ottawa. She is of Indo-Pakistani origin and came to Canada with her mother at the age of seven.

After growing up in Vancouver, Sarah moved to Ontario to pursue her undergraduate studies at Queen’s University and her law degree at Osgoode Hall Law School. In her spare time, Sarah is a food aficionado and a travel buff. She also spearheads a peer mentorship program for international students that is run at several universities across Canada.

Sarah has worked with single parent families and immigrant populations in the areas of family law and immigration law. She looks forward to bringing her experience and wealth of enthusiasm to the IWSO, and appreciates your support!


Lori-Ann McDonald - Board Member

"Lori-Ann McDonald is a Graduate of Social Work from Carleton University. She is currently a Youth Worker at an open custody female youth facility.

Lori-Ann is an immigrant from Jamaica, who moved to Canada with her family and has since made Canada her home. Over the years, Lori-Ann has been gaining experience in the nonprofit sector with various agencies; serving many different populations.

She is a hard worker and even more caring person who seeks to see women and children living their best lives without fear of violence or any unsafe situation."


Diane Tuyishime - Board Member

Diane Tuyishime is a bilingual marketing and communication professional, with over 11 years’ experience helping international and local organizations connect with their audiences and grow their brands. 

As a first-generation immigrant, Diane has experienced first-hand the importance of accessing adequate and culturally sensitive settlement services and the impact it has on setting the immigrant’s path to success. 

Diane is currently a communications specialist with Refugee 613, a coalition of citizens, settlement agencies, sponsorship groups and community partners working to provide refugees with the building blocks of successful integration in Ottawa. She works to create a city where newcomers, especially refugees, feel welcomed and a sense of belonging. 

Diane holds an MBA from the University of Liverpool. 


Avril Espinosa-Malpica - Board Member

Avril Espinosa-Malpica is a CanExport Officer at Global Affairs Canada’s Trade Commissioner Service. By supporting market diversification efforts and companies led by women, indigenous and youth, Avril’s goal is to help build a sustainable and inclusive Canadian economy.

Outside of the office, Avril is committed to improving her community. She is a Young Director of the G(irls)20 Girls on Boards initiative, which aims to achieve gender-balanced representation in leadership positions through a placement in a non-profit governance board. Avril is also currently collaborating with the “For Youth With Youth” initiative, which is leading consultations to inform the upcoming Canada Youth Policy. As well, Avril serves on the Canadian International Council – Vancouver’s Executive Committee.

Avril’s interest in global socio-economic issues can be traced back to her days at the University of British Columbia (UBC), where she received her BA, Combined Economics and Political Science Major, French Minor. At UBC, she became passionate about women empowerment issues after writing her senior economics thesis on the effects of women in leadership on GDP and finding a positive relationship. Avril was also published and selected for the cover photo in UBC’s Outside-In International Photojournal; her piece explored the need for minority language inclusion in decision-making processes. Avril’s achievements have been recognized through the UBC Arts Co-op 2017 Undergraduate Student of the Year Award. Due to her work in trade and contribution to the province, she was also featured in UBC’s “For a Better BC” television, print and online campaign.

Having lived in Mexico, Canada and France, Avril is trilingual, culturally adaptable and globally minded. In her spare time, Avril enjoys developing her interest in photography. 



Barbara Nzigiye - Board Member

Barbara grew up in Nairobi, Kenya and moved to Canada in 2012 to attend the University of Ottawa, where she graduated with an Honours Degree in Political Science, with a minor in Management.

In the past couple of years, Barbara has been active in her community and is involved with organisations locally (like Empow(her)) and internationally (Young Leaders Program, Women Deliver).

Barbara hopes to combine her knowledge of community building and organizational management, with her understanding of the challenges of being a new immigrant to Ottawa and a queer woman of colour to support IWSO.



Yael Kolet - Board Member

Yael has a background in teaching, a degree in Education.  Yael is energetic, personable, well-spoken and enthusiastic.

Yael’s experience in teaching has given her the skill set to evaluate the behaviour and social development of the students; she has a better understanding of students’ emotional, physical, and social development needs.

In addition to teaching, Yael has also extensive experience in sales, communication and customer service. Her experience has led her to work and provide service to a diverse group of clients. Yael has volunteered at a clinic in addition to volunteering at TD Canada as a network member. She has experience in working as an operational manager at Royal LePage Team Realty and also gained international experience by teaching English in Japan for AEON Amity.

Yael believes she can identify with the cause of immigrants based on personal experience and now has the time to give back to her community.


Bernadeth Betchi - Board Member

Bernadeth Betchi was born in Cameroon, a beautiful country in Central Africa. At the age of three, she and her family moved to Quebec City, Canada.

As a black woman living in Canada, she is constantly reminded of what it is like to be an outsider as well as what inclusion really feels like. She has always been intrigued by the experiences of other minorities, and has always been drawn towards their narratives, what brings people together and she has been fascinated by the power of cultural production on immigrants, like herself.

The creativity she possesses as a choreographer and a dancer has helped her to connect to a very broad group of people where they have been able to share their love of culture and music.

As a polyglot, her mastery of multiple languages allows her to communicate and understand those she interacts with and has allowed her to serve them on a personal level.

She brings her unending energy and positivity to this beautiful community. Her ability to empathise and connect to all those she encounters will bring strength and love to this passionate group.



Martina Dionne - Board Member

Martina Dionne is a teacher (OCT) and administrator. She has taught English as a Second Language and English Literature/Drama to elementary, secondary and adult learners in Europe, Asia, South America and Canada.

For many years Martina worked in Education and Outreach for Canada’s National Arts Centre and then as a Project Manager for the Centre of Canadian Language Benchmarks.

Martina received an Honours Bachelors of Arts English/Drama and a Bachelor of Education from Queen’s University. She also holds post graduate certificates in Interactive Media Management from Algonquin College and Public Relations from Concordia University.

Martina is an active member of her community serving on the board for MASC, coaching in elementary schools with GoodLife4Kids and teaching yoga.

As a current ESL teacher trainer and past Director of Teacher Placement for Oxford Seminars, she encourages Canadians to be culturally sensitive, curious, and effective intercultural communicators while teaching and travelling their way around the world.



Sa Yu - Secretary

Growing up in China, Sa Yu witnessed violence against women and gender inequality from a young age, which directly led her to study law and become a lifelong champion for women’s rights.

Ms. Yu holds an LL.D. (Doctor of Laws) degree from the University of Ottawa and works as a policy analyst in the federal public service. She is skilled at developing a bold strategic vision, building consensus, and achieving performance objectives. She is a passionate supporter of Canada’s diverse communities and women’s entrepreneurship.


Juliet Woodfield, CPA, CA

Vice-President, Finance & Human Resources and Chief Financial Officer

Ms. Woodfield joined DCC's Executive Management Team in September 2016. She brings more than 20 years of public and private sector experience, and was most recently the Vice-President, Corporate Services and CFO at the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency.

She has worked with a variety of government organizations and has also served as the Deputy Chief Financial Officer of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Security Investment Program in Brussels, Belgium.

She is a Chartered Professional Accountant and holds a Bachelor of Commerce degree from the University of Calgary.

She has two daughters at university. She volunteers at the Ottawa Catholic Immigration Services of Ottawa as a career mentor for new Canadians and at the Immigrant Women Services Ottawa as a Board member (Treasurer).


Sadaf Kachalia - Vice Chair

Sadaf is a passionate social justice warrior, leveraging her skills in nonprofit management and knowledge of global issues to give back to her community.

Volunteering has always been an important aspect of Sadaf's life. From organizing events like Red Cross' "30-hour famine" and the Canadian Cancer Society's "Relay for Life" to supporting numerous advocacy events around human and women's rights, education, or politics.

She has breadth of experience in program management, policy development, event management, and social media.

Sadaf recently completed her M.A. in Globalization and International Development. She also holds a B.A. in Political Science and a Certificate in Nonprofit Management from York University. She is currently working as a Strategic Analyst for the Government of Canada.

Mechthild Meyer - Board Chair

Mechthild's work with other immigrant women in Ottawa dates back 31 years, when she became the coordinator of OCISO's Immigrant Women's Centre. The lack of services for abused immigrant women at that time led her (together with Lucya Spencer and Alma Estable) to spearhead an advocacy initiative that led to the creation of what is now known as IWSO.

Her commitment to women's equality, anti-racism, and social justice issues inspired many community-based research and training projects, as the co-principal in a social science consulting firm (Gentium Consulting, since 1989). She has implemented numerous public health, social research and evaluation studies for the non-profit sector and for all levels of government.

For 15 years she also was a member of the qualitative research team at the Community Health Research Unit (CHRU), University of Ottawa, co-authoring many publications and conference presentations. Currently, she is Gentium's lead researcher in two developmental evaluation projects for Canadian national women's organizations focusing on the prevention of violence against young women (cyberviolence; sexual exploitation).

Mechthild is the proud mother of three grown-up children, a son and two daughters, who as young children were dragged to many immigrant women's community meetings. She plays in two community music groups (an orchestra and a big band), and loves to ski and canoe in the Canadian wilderness.

Mechthild has a Masters degree in Counselling from the University of Western Ontario and holds a teaching degree (Political Science, Physical Education) from the University of Hamburg, Germany. She also completed training in peer-counselling. She recently finished a Certificate in E-Learning at the University of Toronto.