March 8 is International Women’s Day (IWD). The University of Winnipeg is proud to honour all of the women in our University community who make important contributions within their fields and to the greater community.
In recognition of this year’s theme, Embrace Equity, we are featuring five stories from the past year that highlight the important work Dr. Shauna Labman, Larissa Wodtke, Angeline Nelson, Dr. Jaime Cidro, and Dr. Sheri-Lynn Skwarchuk have done – and are continuing to do – to improve education, research, human rights, and health care for all.
Dr. Shauna Labman – Human Rights
Dr. Shauna Labman is a legal scholar who writes and speaks extensively on refugee law, resettlement, and private refugee sponsorship within a broader context of human rights and public international law. She focuses on the layered influences of law on public policy and government positioning.
Last year, Dr. Labman was one of 20 specialized Manitobans appointed to the newly created Immigration Advisory Council, which works to improve the province’s immigration programs and policies. The council was created in February 2022 and, over the past year, was co-chaired by Dr. Lloyd Axworthy, former UWinnipeg President and Vice Chancellor, and the Minister of Advanced Education, Skills, and Immigration.
“I see my role on the council as ensuring that complementary pathways to welcome and support refugees, which are so central to my academic work, are heard and considered by the province,” said Labman. “I am also excited to work with Dr. Axworthy on this project as we share deep commitments to refugee protection and the Province of Manitoba.”
Labman has had informal conversations with Axworthy on refugee issues over the years and points to past creative initiatives in welcoming newcomers, particularly the City of Winnipeg’s Private Refugee Sponsorship Assurance Fund, as well as the Provincial Nominee Program, as influences on her decision to return to Winnipeg following her graduate work.
Larissa Wodtke – Research
Larissa Wodtke has 13 years of experience at UWinnipeg managing large-scale, interdisciplinary, community-based research projects in the humanities, social sciences, and community health fields.
This past summer, she joined the Research Office as the Program Officer of Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, Anti-Racism, and Decolonization (EDI/AR/D).
“I see this work as forming one of the pillars of the UWinnipeg’s Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Action Plan; a key part of their participation in the Dimensions Program,” Wodtke said this past summer. “EDI/AR/D makes research stronger and more useful to a wider population while honouring the lived experiences of those who can be impacted by research findings.”
Wodtke is responsible for overseeing UWinnipeg’s Dimensions Program recognition and status, ensuring the research ecosystem at UWinnipeg exceeds the requirements and EDI is advanced in all areas of research. She is also supporting the genuine integration of EDI/AR/D practices into researcher grants, and is available for one-on-one consultations for grants in all disciplines.
In the short term, Wodtke will be collecting and developing research resources on EDI/AR/D for an online hub, including a tool kit for Indigenous research data management, as well as developing and implementing EDI/AR/D training and professional development for researchers.
Angeline Nelson – Education
As Director of Community Learning and Engagement at Wii Chiiwaakanak Learning Centre, Angeline Nelson has been dedicated to making science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM) more accessible through the annual Indigenous Summer STEAM Camp.
The camp, which hosts students from Grades 1 – 6, gives children the opportunity to participate in a wide range of activities while incorporating Indigenous knowledge, language, and culture as much as possible.
“One of our goals is for kids to see themselves as scientists, digital artists, computer scientists, engineers, or future leaders in any area, and for that to begin from a young age. Having so many opportunities in multiple areas of STEAM, they can see their own abilities and begin to really feel comfortable because of these experiences,” Nelson said during the camp last summer. “They also get to see so many facilitators, leaders, teachers, and staff that reflect who they are, and as a team, we always hear just how impactful that is for them.”
Thanks to funding through the Government of Canada’s CanCode program, the camp was able to nearly quadruple its size the past year from 56 students to nearly 200.
Dr. Jaime Cidro – Health Care
UWinnipeg’s Indigenous doula research team, led by Canada Research Chair Dr. Jaime Cidro, received nearly $450,000 in federal funding to build off the five-year project, She Walks With Me, and investigate the relationships between doulas and midwives in Winnipeg.
She Walks with Me was awarded funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research in 2020, and aims to support Indigenous women and their families by supplying culturally appropriate supports throughout their pregnancies through an urban Indigenous doula program. The project investigates the necessary administrative and training tools needed to create a sustainable doula program alongside the First Nations Health and Social Secretariat of Manitoba.
This new arm of the project, which the Aboriginal Health and Wellness Centre will co-direct alongside Mount Carmel Clinic and the Women’s Health Clinic Birth Centre, recognizes the need for doulas and midwives to collaborate to ensure wholistic and non-duplicative maternal health care for Indigenous birthing people and their families in Winnipeg.
“These partnerships are integral to ensure the continued health and wellbeing of our constituents,” said Della Herrera, Executive Director at AHWC. “They enhance our existing programs by providing evidence-based information.”
Dr. Sheri-Lynn Skwarchuk – Early Childhood Education
For nearly four years, Dr. Sheri-Lynn Skwarchuk, Professor in the Faculty of Education and Director of Developmental Studies, has been working to develop a free educational tool to help parents advance their children’s numeracy and literacy skills.
These easy-to-access activities, which will be available through an app or email, are divided into three categories: literacy, numeracy, and parental wellness
“ToyBox provides many natural ideas to help kids learn in a fun and interactive way while building the relationship between caregivers and children,” she said. “The wellness strategies are great too as they give parents permission to take healthy breaks.”
Over the course of the last year, Dr. Skwarchuk has been working with Aboriginal Head Start Program Directors Liz Keeper, Vivian Scott, Lianna Wanbdiska, and Corinne Whiteway, as well as Jackie Connell, Assistant Superintendent from the Frontier School Division, to make ToyBox more accessible to Indigenous communities.
International Women’s Day (IWD) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating women’s equality. IWD has occurred for well over a century, with the first IWD gathering in 1911 supported by more than a million people.