This month we are shining a spotlight on Hibaq Gelle– community connector, youth advocate and civic rockstar! Hibaq is currently Policy and Program Analyst at the Ontario Ministry of Children, Community, and Social Services, formerly lead Community Benefits work in Rexdale, is a former member of the Premiers Council on Youth Opportunities, the Toronto Youth Equity Strategy Expert Panel and the recipient of CivicAction’s 2017 Emerging Leader Award for Civic Leadership.
Full name…Hibaq Gelle.
I was born in …Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
And I currently live in … I currently live in Rexdale. I love it because I get to live in one of the most diverse communities in the country, a mash up and fusion of diverse people.
I speak…Somali, and a little bit of Arabic.
Diverse leadership is important because…it allows for others to imagine themselves in new ways. Having diverse leadership at the table allows us to think through problems in our region in an entirely different way.
The issues in our region that keep me up at night are…due to decades of poor leadership and lack of political will, the Rexdale Corridor continues to experience considerable challenges and struggles with poverty, high unemployment rates, lack of accessible infrastructure, and poor investment. My biggest question of late is how do we leverage infrastructure dollars, private and public, for economic and social benefits to transform communities? Specifically, in the community of Rexdale where major infrastructure projects will be coming to the community. How do we get behind Community Benefit Agreements and use it to completely shift the conditions of disadvantaged neighborhoods?
My greatest city-building accomplishment to date is …successfully advocating for targets for infrastructure projects, specifically, Eglinton Crosstown.
One thing I do to ensure I continue to grow and develop as a leader is…Encouraging diverse voices. I am constantly thinking about who isn’t at the table and who should be here. We simply cannot have radical systems change without thoughtful and nuanced understandings of communities who are deeply impacted by these systems.
To me, an inclusive city/region/GTHA looks like…one that is responsive to the needs of the most marginalized. An inclusive region where no one is left behind.
As the recipient of the CivicAction Emerging Leader Award, why do you feel it’s important to recognize rising leaders in our region?
Leadership that is in the trenches and doing the work on the ground is often overlooked. As someone who is actively challenging inequitable power structures, I am thrilled that Civic Action as a city-building institution has seen the value of my work in this city and region. This representation matters because it creates room for other women like me to imagine themselves in new ways.
What does receiving the CivicAction Emerging Leader Award mean to you/what impact has it had?
Often times, the communities of Rexdale and Lawrence Heights do not often get to see people from their own community get awards and accolades. This is so important and I am truly grateful. It is my hope that this award will inspire a new generation of inclusive leadership.