Mehrak is an International senior gender specialist and a passionate women’s rights advocate. She has 15 years’ experience in policy reform and advocacy and has worked with major international development agencies including United Nations and other international development organizations with projects in countries such as Afghanistan, Cambodia, Lebanon, United Arab Emirates, Iran, Canada, and Indonesia. Mehrak’s experience is shaped, first, by her birth homeland of Iran, her love for her new homeland of Canada, and how Cambodia embraced her early in her career. On her way to Cambodia, she compiled a list of things she wanted to like about Cambodia – listing its people as her first hope. Much to her pleasure, as she describes it, she landed in a wonderland, a land of smiles, a land of dignity, a land where the women stand tall despite all they go through. Cambodia instantly embraced her and treated her as family. She was readily accepted as a part of Khmer’s women’s activism efforts for women’s equality. Mehrak considers that Cambodia – and particularly the women of Cambodia - made her who she is today.
Mehrak is the Chair of One Billion Rising Toronto (a Global Movement - Rising and Dancing to Demand an End to Violence Against Women), and a former board member of the Newcomer Toronto Women’s Center. She also served as a past board member of West Coast LEAF (Legal Education Action Fund For Women), and was honoured by the International Alliance for Women (TIAW) in 2012 at the Canadian Embassy in Washington, DC – through its World of Difference 100 Awards. Mehrak has a MA in Gender and Development from the Institute of Development Studies (IDS), University of Sussex in UK and a law degree from the Meli University in Tehran.
Mehrak is presently based in Istanbul, Turkey, working as a lead researcher for a study on the situation of Syrian refugee women and girls.
Leila Farivar Sadri
Born and raised in Tehran, Iran, Leila Sadri, graduated with a Master degree in Architecture in 2002 at the University of Art in Isfahan, Iran, located next to the Grand Bazaar in the UNESCO-recognized historic centre of Isfahan, where she found her deep and passionate love to handcrafted art.
She spent more than ten years working with two well-known Architecture and Planning firms in Tehran. Excelling in roles as a designer, project manager and planner on many projects, from small residential buildings to comprehensive city plans, she rose to become a management representative and partner for seven years, focusing on strategy planning and running quality management systems in the work place.
Leila became involved in Lotus Wonders after moving to Toronto and meeting Lotus Wonders founder Mehrak Mehrvar. She immediately became captivated by the beautiful designs and the mission to provide livelihoods to women in Cambodia and wanted to know more. Following this new passion, Leila visited the Lotus Wonders training workshop in Cambodia in 2014 and subsequently joined the Lotus Wonders team as CEO in 2015.
Having taught herself to sew, and always having a sewing machine close by, Mamak believes design and sewing are about living in moments and that there is something intrinsically special about handmade objects. Mamak has visited Cambodia several times in recent years and she worked directly with women in the village to create our gorgeous Lotus Wonders' handcrafted pieces. She studied Music and has a MBA from University of Applied Sciences Kiel in Germany. Her experience as a business and market strategist in both academia and the private sector is invaluable to Lotus Wonders. We are so grateful for the many many talents she brings us.
Advancing women's economic empowerment has been at the core of Stephanie’s work for almost two decades nationally and internationally as a leader, board member, advocate, connector and change agent. After ten years of journalism and ten years in corporate communications, Stephanie led one of Canada’s leading organizations for the career advancement of women, Canadian Women in Communications, for 16 years. She served as President of the Board of the International Alliance for Women, an umbrella network reaching 35,000 women around the world. She was inducted into Canada’s Telecom Hall of Fame in 2010, was twice named to Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women by WXN in 2005 and 2012 and was admitted to the Freedom of the City of London (UK) in 2010. She knows that Lotus Wonders can transform the lives of women and their communities in Cambodia by providing sustainable livelihoods.
Neshat has a Bachelor's degree in Computer Software Engineering from Melli University of Tehran. After her graduation, she started working as an IT expert. She later perused her passion in social activities and joined a non-profit organization with a focus on cultural activity in Kurdistan of Iran, where her roots are. She dedicated her time to working with women who had dependants and economic problems, as well as children who didn't have enough facilities for education. Since her migration to Toronto, Neshat got the chance to get to know Lotus Wonders, which shares the same aspirations and hopes. She decided to fulfil her personal desire by becoming a member of this family in 2016.
ADVISORY BOARD MEMBERS
Gretchen Van Riesen
Gretchen is a retired corporate executive with over 40 years in the pension and benefits industry. Her passion for good governance has led her to be active on a number of health care and pension boards, including chairing the Boards of Providence Healthcare Foundation, The Phillip Aziz Centre for Hospice Care, and Emily's House.
With experience launching successful start-up companies, he is passionate about developing businesses from the ground up leveraging cutting-edge IT solutions, mobile technology and data analytics. Saeed has a PhD in Engineering from the University of British Columbia (UBC) with a post-graduate degree in Management & Entrepreneurship.
Leah is the founder of r/ally-- an innovative mobile collaboration platform that builds stronger business relationships and improves communication inside large organizations. She is also a celebrated columnist, whose work appears in the Globe and Mail and the Huffington Post. Her weekly Women@Work column in the Globe and Mail takes a fresh look at issues women in Canada and the United States face in the modern day workplace - from lack of representation at the Board of Directors’ level to the phenomenon of female breadwinners.
Jennifer is a financial consultant – most recently to Canada’s mining industry. She has worked in both the public and private sectors in Canada, and supplemented this experience with passionate volunteer service to non-profits including membership on the Finance and Audit Committee of Providence Healthcare Foundation and as a board member of Multiple Births Canada.