Mercy Lawluvi

Executive Director

Mechthild Meyer

Board Chair

Sadaf Kachalia

Vice Chair

Bota Tuyakova


Sa Yu


Navpreet Uppal

Navpreet Uppal

Board Member

Bernadeth Betchi

Board Member

Patricia Benin

Patricia Benin

Board Member

Barbara Nzigiye

Board Member

Avril Espinosa-Malpica

Board Member

Diane Tuyishime

Board Member

Lori-Ann McDonald

Board Member

Meriem Bougrassa

Board Member

Tasha Truant

Tasha Truant

Board Member

Juliet Woodfield

Juliet Woodfield

Board Member

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.

Tasha Truant


Tasha Truant - Board Member

Tasha Truant, a Consultant Manager at Goss Gilroy Inc., brings to IWSO her in-depth knowledge of evaluation, performance measurement, and applied research. Domestically, her work has largely focused on assessments of government-funded immigration and integration programs in areas such as foreign qualification recognition, language training, and citizenship.

Tasha holds a Master of Arts from the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs at Carleton University. Her undergraduate degree is from the University of Guelph, where she received an Honours Bachelor of Arts in International Development.

Tasha is also a long-time community volunteer, a private refugee sponsor, and an all-round champion of multiculturalism.


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.


Patricia Benin


Patrica Benin - Board Member

Patricia is a retired public servant with over 30 years experience in social policy research, program evaluation, and strategy.  Her areas of work included access to justice for women and children,  including victims of domestic violence and sexual assault; crime prevention; substance abuse prevention and treatment; and restitution for indigenous residential school survivors. She has expertise in evaluation and audit, performance measurement, strategic planning, board governance, and human resources.


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.


Navpreet Uppal


Navpreet Uppal B. Eng. - Board Member

Navpreet is a Director, Information Technology at Defence Construction Canada (DCC). Before joining DCC in 2005, Navpreet worked in the private sector in various capacities.

After growing up and finishing her undergraduate degree in Engineering, Navpreet moved to Canada in 1998 after meeting her husband in India. After living and working in Winnipeg for three years, she moved to Ottawa in 2001 where she now raises her two teenage children with her husband.

Navpreet has been involved in the community by supporting various sports organizations in a volunteer capacity. Navpreet has been active in the Government of Canada’s Workplace Charitable Campaign (GCWCC) committee at DCC for the past 10 years, fundraising for various charities.

Being an immigrant herself and having experienced being in a new country with minimal friendships and relationships, Navpreet understands the challenges of integrating and acclimatizing into a new society. She believes that language training and workforce integration are the key elements for adjustment and that technology plays a key role these days in both these elements. Navpreet is looking forward to contributing towards IWSO’s mandate by providing her technical expertise to all the program deliveries offered by IWSO to increase its outreach.



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.