Inspiring women are all around us

Posted on Friday, March 5, 2021

Black and white archival photo of women marching on Parliament Hill

Source: uOttawa Archives

“I’m so inspired by the uOttawa women who came before me,” says Zaynashae Boreland, a fourth-year Psychology student. “And by all the women who surround me today.”

International Women’s Day is all about celebrating women’s achievements, raising awareness of bias and taking action for equity. To mark #IWD2021 on March 8, we’ve curated a list of eight stories about women who’ve gone above and beyond to innovate, educate and elevate their communities.

But, as Zaynashae points out, there are so many accomplished and inspiring women at uOttawa that this list barely scratches the surface.

Portrait of Ruth Bansoba
  1. Young graduate creates the Bansoba Admission Scholarship for future Black civil law students

This young alumna dreams of a justice system more representative of our society and is determined to increase diversity and equity in the legal profession. After graduating with honours from the Faculty of Law, Civil Law Section, Ruth Bansoba set out to create an admission scholarship for Black students wanting to study civil law at uOttawa.

Portrait of Keri Cheechoo
  1. Resistance and perseverance are written in her DNA

Faculty of Education professor Keri Cheechoo’s doctoral work is about making and holding space for the collective voices of Indigenous women in Ontario and Quebec who were subjected to medical racism and reproductive violence and injustice. Embodying and enacting mindfulness, reciprocity and consent, she transformed their shared lived experiences into lyrical poetry. In July 2020, Professor Cheechoo's thesis went on to win the Canadian Association for Curriculum Studies (CACS) Dissertation Award for the best doctoral thesis in curriculum studies in Canada.

Portrait of Marceline Côté
  1. Ebola is a master of disguise but Dr. Marceline Côté found a way to sniff it out

Associate Professor Marceline Côté has an impressive track record when it comes to uncovering how viruses enter our bodies. The Ebola virus disguises itself as a dying cell to trick its way into our organs and wreak havoc on our bodies. Côté and her research team at the Faculty of Medicine recently found a way to treat the virus as soon as it rears its terrifying head, something doctors have long been waiting for. They found a collection of existing drugs that show promise in preventing Ebola from multiplying and spreading. This discovery could help save many lives and is only the start of many discoveries to come in virology research.

Collage of women's faces
  1. COVID-19: Telling her-stories

In the early days of COVID-19, Yoo Young Lee, Marina Bokovay, Roxanne Lafleur and Satya Miller, four staff members at the University of Ottawa Library, took it upon themselves to collect and preserve women’s pandemic stories. These stories of success, struggle, happiness, and sadness, now being stored in the Library’s Women’s Archives, will allow researchers and future generations to understand how women in Canada experienced the pandemic in their everyday lives.

  1. The University is committed to better mental health and wellness services, and Betsy Kristjansson will help to keep us accountable

Elizabeth (Betsy) Kristjansson is uOttawa’s special adviser on mental health and wellness. She is responsible for ensuring that the University carries out its plan for better mental health and wellness services across its campuses so that students, professors and staff alike can thrive. Her expertise in neighbourhoods and community health and experience with bringing people together to solve problems make her a great fit for the role.

Portrait of Azadeh Dastmalchi
  1. uOttawa PhD candidate develops a smartwatch that can help save lives

When she was seven years’ old, biomedical engineering student Azadeh Dastmalchi already knew what she wanted to be: a renowned scientist in the vein of Thomas Edison. Like Edison, she wanted to create something that would help many people. Today, she’s the proud inventor of a ground-breaking medical smartwatch that tracks vital signs and alerts health care providers to potential health risks, including cardiovascular disease and COVID-19, proof that Dastmalchi has stayed true to her childhood dream.

Portrait of students and founders of ally squared Uswah Ahsan and Sumaya Sherif
  1. Student-led initiative teaches the art of allyship

Political science alumna Uswah Ahsan and current student law student Sumaya Sherif launched Ally Squared, a grassroots youth-led non-profit that explores the concept of allyship and offers workshops to the community on how to better understand and practise it. The initiative is all about giving people the tools to advocate for themselves and stand up for others.

Portrait of Hanan Anis
  1. uOttawa Makerspace engineers build protective gear for frontline healthcare workers

When the Government of Ontario announced last year that there was going to be a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontline health care workers, electrical engineering professor Hanan Anis rallied a group of engineering students to help design and build plastic face shields using 3D printers and laser cutters from the Richard L’Abbé Makerspace lab.

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