For this edition of Spotlight on our Members, we met with the Heather Shapter who was just recently named Executive Director of Crossroads international, a leading Canadian volunteer cooperation agency advancing equality for women and girls and eradicating poverty in some of the world’s poorest countries in Africa and South America.
CCIC: Congratulations on your new role as the Executive Director of Crossroads international! What are you most looking forward to working on in your new position with Crossroads International?
Heather Shapter: I am looking forward to so much! It is such an honour to be joining an organization that has been fighting inequality in some of the world’s poorest countries for 60 years! I am excited to be joining arm and arm with an extraordinary cadre of professional and passionate staff, volunteers, partner organizations and funders to create decent jobs and to empower women to become leaders and live free from violence.
CCIC: What are some of your biggest takeaways from Women Deliver and how do you see those inspiring and informing the work of Crossroads International?
HS: I was so moved by demonstration after demonstration of outstanding leadership of young women from around the world. One young Zambian woman named Natasha Kaoma, for example, talked of how when she was a teenager, she really wanted to empower other young girls to address the barriers around menstruation and going to school. In college, she said that she asked her friends to give her any amount of money they could so she could start to make a difference. They gave her 30 cents, 50 cents – until she had collected $300. She used that money to bring together adolescent girls, to listen to their concerns and to let them know something different was possible.
A few years later Natasha and her team were reaching 30,000 girls with menstruation hygiene management awareness and training. 30,000! This really had me look to see the limits of my own thinking around what it takes to scale programs. I will be bringing ongoing inquiry to Crossroads so together, with our partners, we can look newly at a bold pathway forward to realize the organization’s vision of ONE WORLD where poverty is eliminated, equality prevails, and the rights of women and girls are fulfilled.
CCIC: Crossroads is a proud signatory of CCIC’s Leader’s Pledge on Preventing and Addressing Sexual Misconduct with a webpage dedicated to the organization’s ethics. What advice do you have for other NGOs as the sector seeks to better address power imbalances and sexual misconduct, abuse and exploitation? What is Crossroads doing in this regard?
HS: Crossroads has committed to addressing the risks and realities of sexual violence by engaging its stakeholders, including personnel, partners, volunteers, and beneficiaries in strategies which support active bystander response, are survivor-focused and reinforce the message that sexual violence prevention is everyone’s responsibility. Crossroads’ believes that the societal power imbalances which foster sexual misconduct, abuse and exploitation are best addressed through collaborative, multi-stakeholder approaches which aim to recognize, address and transform power imbalances, across the NGO sector and beyond.
CCIC: Crossroads International is a valued member of CCIC. Could you comment on what your CCIC membership has meant to Crossroads and share how you would like to see this relationship grow in the future?
HS: Crossroads is proud to have been a long-standing member of CCIC and I am very excited to be leading our organization into the next chapter of collaboration with CCIC’s members. At Women Deliver, Minister Monsef acknowledged the Canadian INGO sector for breaking down the silos between our organizations to come together with a compelling case to the Canadian government that resulted in the historic funding announcements made for women and girls’ empowerment. Clearly, the future that the Feminist International Assistance Policy and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) represent is not going to be accomplished by any single entity. CCIC is a critical collective agent through which Crossroads is very excited about expanding its engagement with its respected NGO colleagues.
Executive Director, Crossroads International
Heather Shapter brings over 20 years of non-profit leadership experience to Crossroads with extensive program and business development experience. Heather started her career in the development sector as a Project Manager for CARE Canada, and later served as the Women’s Economic Empowerment Advisor for BRAC in Bangladesh. She also spent two years in Haiti as Save the Children USA’s Women’s Economic Opportunity Specialist. Since then, Heather has worked in senior-level roles for Prosper Canada, Global Impact and has managed large scale volunteer team initiatives.
In the corporate sector, Heather led the NGO division for Bluedrop Learning Networks where she helped partner organizations scale their employment and entrepreneurship programs for marginalized young people and women. Bluedrop’s work was recognized by such prestigious bodies as the Clinton Global Initiative. She has also run an international consulting practice for many years that focused on leadership development and leveraging organizational culture for breakthrough results.
Heather’s journey in the NGO and private sectors has spanned five continents and brought with it extensive experience in building local community capacity. Her life has been dedicated to the end of poverty through the empowerment of women and children. She brings to the Crossroads International Executive Director role a vision to build on the organization’s success and leap forward with bold and innovative leadership.
Heather has an MBA from Queen’s University and a BA from Memorial University. She lives in Toronto with her two sons and her husband, Gerry.