National Office Staff
Chief Executive Officer
Paulette Senior has been a passionate advocate for women’s issues for more than two decades. Her rich background and experience in community development, access and social justice has been brought to bear on her role as CEO of the country’s oldest and largest women’s multi-service organization, the YWCA Canada. As CEO, she works tirelessly to raise awareness of issues affecting women and girls and leads the development of programs and services that bolster their economic and social empowerment.
A role-model and sought-after public speaker, Ms. Senior worked her way up through the ranks of community based organizations, gaining first-hand insight into the challenges that affect women, children and families. She served as a community development and family support worker with the Lawrence Heights Health Centre, Macaulay Child Development Centre and Central Neighbourhood House. She later joined the management of the YWCA Toronto, managing a complex range of portfolios, including, equity, shelter and housing, and employment programs. Her leadership and advocacy skills were soon recognized by the YWCA’s world headquarters, where she was able to influence policy on an international basis.
In addition to her leadership role at YWCA Canada, Ms. Senior has also found time to volunteer. She is on the Board of Directors for the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund Canada. Previously, she chaired several committees and was part of the Executive Board leadership for Rouge Valley Health System, a multi-site hospital in East Scarborough and West Durham. The York University graduate has served as Vice-President for the Black Business and Professional Association (BBPA), Treasurer of the Centre for Social justice, Chair of the Malvern Family Resource Centre; and a Member of the Police Race Relations Monitoring Board, the Scarborough Black Education Organization and the College of Occupational Therapists.
Ms. Senior’s commitment and contribution to her community have been widely recognized. She is the recipient of the African Canadian Achievement Award, receiving the Matilda Van Cooten Award for Excellence in Single Parenting in 2004. She was the first recipient of the Microskills Canada Margo Franssen Leadership Award, which recognizes a woman who combines outstanding leadership in the private or public sector with a passionate commitment to the advancement of women and girls. In 2009, she received the Black Women’s Civic Engagement Network Champion Award.
Director of Advocacy & Public Policy
Director of Advocacy and Public Policy, Ann Decter leads national campaigns, issue advocacy, research and policy development for YWCA Canada. A feminist and equity advocate, Ann initiated the Homes for Women Campaign to end the homelessness of women and girls in Canada and wrote Educated, Employed and Equal: The Economic Prosperity Case for National Child Care as well as When There’s No Place Like Home: A Snapshot of Women’s Homelessness in Canada. Previous advocacy roles include anti-poverty work at Sistering, an award-winning women’s agency, and Campaign 2000, Canada’s national coalition to end child and family poverty. The author of Lost in the Shuffle: The Impact of Homelessness on Children’s Education, Ann spent many years in feminist publishing, developing ground-breaking titles and representing Canada internationally. The author of four books, she is a member of The Writers Union of Canada.
In her role as Finance Manager, Karen is responsible for managing the financial resources and the financial reporting. She also has oversight for the administration of the office. Karen has over 10 years experience in Accounting and Finance both locally and internationally. With extensive experience implementing new programs, facilities and IT systems, Karen has worked at Dundee Wealth Management, Price Waterhouse and YWCA Toronto, where she contributed to the REACH and LINC programs, which directly support women entering and re-entering the workforce. She holds a Masters of Business Administration.
Communications & Marketing Manager
Laura Tilley is the Manager of Communications and Marketing at YWCA Canada, where she is responsible for all matters relating to YWCA Canada communications, web and marketing projects. Laura manages all content for ywcacanada.ca, ywcagirlspace.ca, rosecampaign.ca and thinkbig-startsmall.ca; and directs all social media accounts representing YWCA Canada including Facebook and Twitter. Prior to joining the National Office, Laura was the Marketing Specialist for Hasbro Canada and the Communications & Marketing Coordinator for Canada NewsWire. She holds an Honours degree in Political Science and has been active in several volunteer initiatives regarding children with special needs, adult and child literacy, and youth advocacy.
Tamara Akopcan is the bilingual Administrative Assistant for YWCA Canada. She is in responsible for supporting the Executive and Finance offices. Her role also involves coordinating information with board members, YWCA Member Associations and other organizations. Previously she worked with Tourism Québec/Destination Québec, acting as office manager where she was in charge of media relations for six years. She holds a BA in English philology, a diploma in psychology/social work, a certificate in mediation and was trained with ACFO-Toronto in leadership for volunteer work in French communities in Ontario. Tamara has a keen interest in issues related to women and over two years of volunteer experience in a non-profit organization, mentoring newcomer women in transition to economic and emotional independence.
Danielle Pearson is the Communications and Membership Coordinator at YWCA Canada, supporting the Membership though events, and ongoing projects and campaigns, including Y Act Up and the Rose Campaign. Danielle is a passionate social justice advocate, with specific interests in women’s safety and reproductive and sexual health rights. She came to YWCA Canada in 2009, through a field placement in the final year of her Bachelor of Social Work at Ryerson University. Danielle brings experiences working in Women’s Programming with Planned Parenthood Toronto, as a volunteer birthing coach at St. Joseph’s Health Centre, and as a student at the Ontario NDP caucus.
Programs & Projects Coordinator
Aldeli Albán Reyna coordinates national initiatives including Y Act Up!™ and Homes for Women™ to support projects and campaigns for Advocacy & Public Policy as well as Member Services. She has obtained her Honours Bachelor’s degree in Women & Gender Studies, with a double minor in Spanish and Italian. Her passions for activism, equity and learning stem from a long history of volunteering, lived experiences, and desire for social change. She has volunteered with various organizations such as University College (University of Toronto), Rethink Breast Cancer, Muscular Dystrophy, and Cystic Fibrosis Canada. In her spare time, Aldeli is the Chair and Volunteer Liaison for the Oxfam Toronto Community Group, Youth Advisor for Toronto 2015: Pan American & Parapan American Games, and the Youth Outreach Coordinator for the Toronto-based Feminist Art Conference. Aldeli has also won the Norma Epstein Foundation Awards in Creative Writing for poetry.
Fund Development Manager
Deborah Barretto joined the YWCA Canada team in June 2010. Previously, she worked at Sistering, a Drop-In Centre for homeless women in downtown Toronto, where she was Manager of Communications and Special Events. She has worked for many community and women’s organizations over the years including The South Asian Women’s Group (SAWG), Women’s Press, United Way of Greater Toronto, Media Watch and the Ontario Nurses’ Association.
She has served on the boards of Rasik Arts and Small World Music Festival, and is a member of the Masala Trois editorial collective. They have previously anthologized two collections of writings by South Asians in the diaspora, and are currently working on a third, Adventures in Desiland.
Manager of Programs and Projects
Aline Nizigama is the bilingual Manager of Programs and Projects at YWCA Canada, where she supports advocacy, member services and youth programming. She manages the implementation of projects engaging member associations and partners across Canada, including the Access to Justice Legal Training workshops for agencies serving women dealing with violence, and the research project on Effective Practices for Sheltering Abused Women with Mental Health and Addiction Issues. She is also responsible for maintaining rapport with and reporting to funders, as was the case for her role in the Y Act Up and the Blueprint projects. Aline holds a Masters in Public Policy, and an Honours degree in Health Policy, with a focus on the social determinants of health. Her interest to work on socioeconomic issues that affect women and girls is informed by lived experience growing up in a country struggling with challenges related to gender inequities, poverty, and armed conflict. She is currently serving on the Board of Margaret’s Housing and Community Support Services, and is actively involved with Couchiching Institute for Public Affairs, Samara Canada, Civic 17, and Haguruka Burundian Women’s Association. Aline has lived in four different countries, on two continents, with lots of travels in between.