Meet the dedicated individuals who make up the Centre for Family Equity team. Our staff work closely with our active member network of parents and caregivers throughout BC to carry out the policies and strategic vision set out by our lived experience-led board of directors.
Zeynya Shikur Alemayehu – Research & Policy Lead
Zeynya is the Centre for Family Equity's research and policy lead. Zeynya is a researcher and policy professional with an interest and experience in human rights, sustainability, and public policy issues. In her past roles, working with non-profits, think tanks, and governments, she has coordinated and contributed to a diversity of research and policy projects.
Zeynya oversees and collaborates to implement and disseminate the results of the Centre's participatory research projects focusing on child care policy and the work-related impacts of COVID-19 on low-income lone mothers in BC, as well as other research. She also provides research and analytical support to design and execute our broader policy advocacy initiatives and campaigns. Reach Zeynya at [email protected].
Viveca Ellis – Executive Director
Viveca serves the Centre for Family Equity in the role of executive director. Viveca is a founding member of the organization; in 2014, she banded together with other lone mothers impacted by poverty and lack of access to legal aid, housing, and child care, to mobilize grassroots leaders and advocate for public policy solutions to lone-parent family poverty in BC.
In past roles, Viveca has worked for the BC Poverty Reduction Coalition as the founder and coordinator of the BCPRC's Community Action Network, then led the Coalition through the pandemic as Interim Community Organizer until her departure to create the first staff role at what was then the Single Mothers’ Alliance in 2021.
In 2017, Viveca was nominated to the Minister's Advisory Forum on Poverty Reduction to design BC's first poverty reduction strategy and resulting legislation. Viveca also represented the BC CEDAW Group at the UN's review of Canada's compliance with the Convention to End Discrimination Against Women in Geneva in 2016. Viveca remains dedicated to mobilizing grassroots movements and campaigns toward human rights, gender equality, and socioeconomic equality. In her spare time, Viveca can be found trying to keep up mountain biking with her 13-year-old son and paddling her canoe on BC's remote lakes and rivers. Reach Viveca at [email protected].
Vibusha Madanayake – Northern & Rural BC Engagement Liaison
Vibusha Kalanee Madanayake (she/her) is the northern and rural BC engagement liaison for the Centre for Family Equity located in Prince George, BC. Vibusha’s previous experience involved managing projects on post-conflict development and gender-based violence in war-affected communities in Sri Lanka. Vibusha is a passionate advocate for gender equality and youth empowerment while pursuing her post-graduate education in Gender Studies at the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC). In her spare time, she is keen on spending time with her family, enjoying movies, and exploring diverse destinations and food cultures. Vibusha can be reached at [email protected].
Michael Penny – Knowledge Mobilization Coordinator
Michael Penny is a dedicated activist, organizer and communications specialist who has worked and campaigned in multiple regions across Canada, including the Prairies, Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes. Before joining the Centre for Family Equity, he worked for many years with the Broadbent Institute, a leading progressive think tank in Canada.
In addition to his work in social justice advocacy, Michael has a diverse professional background that includes law, market research, and municipal governance but his passion is for finding new ways to leverage technology to drive positive social change.
Michael recently relocated with his young family to the picturesque District of Clearwater, nestled in the Trophy Mountains of the BC Interior. In his free time, Michael enjoys reading, bicycling, keeping up with current events and spending quality time with his family. Reach Michael at [email protected].
Erin Arnold – Treasurer
Erin Arnold has worked for various ministries since 1998 including the Attorney General, Public Safety and Solicitor General, Children and Family Development and Public Services Agency of BC. Erin holds a graduate certificate in complex trauma and child sexual abuse intervention, an undergraduate degree in Child and Youth Care Counselling and has over 18 years of facilitation, victim services and trauma-based work experience. Erin has managed multi-year government contracts, organized and executed large public events and assisted in drafting public policy on various progressive issues.
Erin is passionate about volunteering in her community and has done so in a variety of capacities. Key areas of interest are women’s rights, maternal mental health, trauma informed programs and refugee services. Erin holds various board positions on subjects ranging from public education, mental health, global education, various levels of politics etc.
Erin is a mother, leader, survivor, social justice advocate and change-maker. Erin hopes to continue to bring compassion and empowerment to her role with the Centre for Family Equity. Erin has been a member for five years.
Josephine’s professional experience includes over twenty years working for the federal government in various human resources roles, including employee relations, conflict resolution, disability management, and performance management. She has insight into the diligence involved in providing tangible advice and service. Josephine has a strong perspective and an appreciation for ongoing support when dealing with sensitive and confidential situations.
Josephine has a Bachelor of Administration (Human Resources and Industrial Relations) from Athabasca University, a Conflict Management and Mediation Certificate from Conrad Grebel University College, affiliated with the University of Waterloo, and Business Administration Diploma and Human Resources Management Certificate from Humber College. When not working, Josephine is a one-caregiver busy caring for her three children, who are active in multiple activities.
Mai Eagle Speaker
Mai Eagle Speaker is a mother of four, she is also the caregiver of her niece and nephew. Her father is from southern Vietnam and her mother is Blackfoot from Kainai Nation (the Blood Tribe) in southern Alberta.
Mai has faced many adversities growing up in East Vancouver. Mai is deeply impacted by intergenerational trauma, abuse, neglect discrimination, grief, loss, and was also a child in care. Despite all that, she has gained valuable employment experience demonstrating commitment to supporting Indigenous and other marginalized populations over the past seven years of her career, excelling in leadership and supportive roles with MCFD Maples Adolescent Treatment centre, YWCA’s Crabtree Corner, Strive living society, and the Aboriginal Mother Centre Society. In her personal and professional experience, she has developed a strong understanding of the challenges facing those with FASD, other cognitive disabilities and mental health. Mai is a passionate advocate for Indigenous people, justice and social equality. Today Mai works at Xyolhemeylh Fraser Valley Aboriginal Children and Family Services Society as a Family Cultural Connections Worker. Mai has been a member for five years.
Kate Jarman – Secretary
Katherine Jarman is a devoted single mother of one who spends her days and nights loving all the adventures she and her child experience. Katherine is a fearless advocate for the rights of children, families, and educators in her personal and professional life and completed her Bachelor's degree in Early Childhood Care and Education. Katherine is currently the Director of Advocacy for the Capilano Students' Union.
Katherine fulfills her commitment to social justice as she strives to support post-secondary students navigating the bureaucratic challenges that often get in the way of their goals. She works to ensure their voices are elevated, amplified, and supported on a daily basis, and works closely with the collectives of students from marginalized communities at Capilano University ensuring the Capilano Students’ Union, university, and provincial government do the work necessary to build success. She also holds a board position for ECEBC where she supports the governance of the organization and supporting the work of the tireless staff to elevate the early childhood education profession.
Andii Stephens – Chair
Andii Stephens is an advocate for human rights and social justice. As a union employee (BCGEU) championing worker’s rights, she’s also involved in her own union, MoveUP, as a member of the Women’s & Gender Rights Committee, Political Action Committee, and as the Returning Officer. Andii’s social sciences background informs her passion for equity and community involvement with a compassionate and critical lens. She actively advocates on women’s issues, including affordable housing and childcare. Her research interests include unpaid reproductive labour, the precarity of work for immigrant and migrant workers, and the representation of women in the workforce. Andii is a single mom to a young boy learning the value of feminism. She has been a member for two years.
Leila Trickey – Co-chair
Leila Trickey is committed to dismantling systems of oppression through intersectional research methodologies, policy advocacy, and equitable community and health practice. She also sits on the Board of Collingwood Neighbourhood House (CNH), where she serves as President, on RISE Community Health Centre’s Advisory Committee, and CNH’s Anti-Racism and Equity Committee (AR&E). Leila is currently a Community Engagement Specialist with United Way British Columbia’s Hi Neighbour initiative and the loving mother of Sahel.