Suzanne Doerge

Suzanne Doerge

Community Pillars

Suzanne Doerge is an inspirational woman who is admired both locally and nationally for her remarkable contributions to the social justice community in Ottawa, most specifically in relation to City for All Women Initiative (CAWI).  Until her retirement in June 2019, she served as its Executive Director.

For 15 years, Ms. Doerge has been instrumental in bringing women’s voices from diverse backgrounds, organizations and academia to the municipal level to create a more inclusive city and advance gender equality. Ms. Doerge initially held a one year contract, in 2004, to coordinate a research project, “Women’s Access to Municipal Decision Making” which grew into the grassroots network of City for All Women Initiative (CAWI).  With Suzanne Doerge assuming the position of Executive Director in 2005, CAWI blossomed into a vibrant, effective and well-respected organization with active participation by a diversity of women across the city. Her capacity to listen effectively, together with her creativity and positivity along the way, enabled her to achieve milestone after milestone for CAWI, all the while dedicating hundreds of overtime hours to CAWI and the women who are its foundation.

Ms. Doerge has worked tirelessly for the development of CAWI.  She led efforts to establish CAWI as a bridge building organization that is sympathetic to and respectful about the ways that institutions work but at the same time, whose priorities and approaches are ultimately shaped by the women who see CAWI as their change agent. Her outstanding facilitation skills and her welcoming personality have been key to drawing in a diversity of members and encouraging active participation. Having lived in Central America, she brings an understanding of working across cultures, identities and social classes that is infused in the work of CAWI.

CAWI is an organization where academic research, lived experience, and a strong commitment to social justice come together as a basis for its work. Under Ms. Doerge’s leadership, CAWI’s initiatives to date have included the development of a Gender Equality Lens comprised of eleven fourteen diversity snapshot guides for the City of Ottawa; Making Voices Count; and, Facilitation for Change. The Gender Equality Lens adopted by the City of Ottawa has provided the basis for training in equity and inclusion for numerous City departments.  It has also been used as a model that led into a national project across five different municipalities working together to develop a national guide for municipalities on equity and inclusion. The Equality Lens focuses on eleven groups who experience systemic barriers including women, persons with disabilities, as well as six additional groups who are at risk of exclusion – recent immigrants, Francophones, youth, seniors, people living in poverty, low-income residents and rural residents. CAWI has been recognized through the Mayor’s City Builders Award for the contribution that the Gender Equality Lens has made to the City of Ottawa.

Making Voices Count gives women the opportunity to participate in action forums and City Hall deputations on matters that relate to housing, poverty, social issues, transportation and anything else that may impact the community. Facilitation for Change teaches women from diverse backgrounds to become facilitators within their organizations and to develop a skillset to help them become more active in speaking out.  CAWI has worked with many local organizations such as Immigrant Women’s Services, Cornerstone Women’s Housing, Coalition of Community Resource Centres, and Healthy Transportation. With the involvement of these local organizations, CAWI has been sought out by national organizations to work with them. Such national organizations include Trade Unions – PSAC, CUPE and Canadian Labour Congress as well as a project entitled “Igniting the Spark” with Equal Voice.

Suzanne Doerge has spoken at many national forums on the work of CAWI and designed a number of workshops for various groups of organizations such as NGO’s, faith communities, and unions to work on social justice issues and to take action towards change.  She has been recognized for her work by the Canadian Women’s Foundation.

Suzanne Doerge holds a Masters in Adult Education from Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto.