Zaira Petruf
Kaley Roosen
Frances Truong
Pamela Verma

Zaira Petruf
Masters student at Simon Fraser University International Studies, Complex Emergencies Program.

Zaira arrived in Canada as a refugee when she was 14 years old with her mother Cristina from Argentina. She quickly learned to support herself financially and maintained her scholarship at a private high school. In order to overcome the hardships that were characteristic of the first five years of her life in Canada, she decided to focus on academics and volunteering for different non-profit art organizations. This experience helped her develop determination and inner strength.

She did her Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of British Columbia (UBC) in cultural Anthropology where she focused on the process of reconciliation in post-Apartheid South Africa, particularly on how institutional understandings of conflict and reconciliation affect gender dynamics. At UBC, she received a number of merit awards such as the Graduating Class of 1935 Scholarship, the Hawk Eilertson Scholarship, the University of BC Alumni Association Scholarship, the Frank Eastham Memorial Scholarship, the Harold Scanlon Foley Memorial Scholarship, and the 2007 Special University Scholarship 

Throughout her life, Zaira has witnessed the abuse of women, thus women’s rights is a cause that she feels very passionate about. In 2008, she became part of UBC VDAY: A Global Movement to End Violence Against Women and Girls at the university of British Columbia. She was also part of a theatre production and attended rehearsals every week. Her commitment to ending violence against women, in conjunction with her fellow organizers’, resulted in approximately $20,000.00 raised for charity. The money was distributed throughout local women shelters and part of it went to a hospital in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in charge of treating female survivors of sexual abuse.

In the fall of 2010, she spent six months in South Africa on an internship through American Field Service (AFS). She was interested in the dynamic process of reconciliation after Apartheid, especially on the role that youth populations play in the economic, social and political legacy of Apartheid. She lived and worked at The Durbanville Children’s Home in Cape Town, consisting of 140 boys and girls, ages 2-19. She worked in the fundraising department, aiding the Fundraising Manager with grant applications, managing monetary and in-kind donations as well as planning events to raise funds and awareness. She also taught basic computer classes to refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo and from Zimbabwe in a refugee center.

She is currently a Masters student at the International Studies, Complex Emergencies program at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, BC where she earned a Graduate Fellowship. In her MA thesis, she intends to analyze gender identities among formerly Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) abducted women in northern Uganda. Her goal is that her research project will contribute to the understanding of the role of youth and gender in the process of post-conflict reconstruction. Canada is a world leader in empowering women and creating socially active participants. She believes that eradicating child-abuse and nurturing the diversity of gendered identities is of paramount importance to Canadians.

Zaira is currently interning at the Justice and Reconciliation Project (JRP), in Gulu northern Uganda. She works with war-affected and formerly-abducted women by the Lord's Resistance Army at the Gender Justice department, advocating for justice in the form of acknowledgment of violence perpetrated against them, reparations both symbolic and monetary, and mobilizing communities to engage in the process of healing and reconciliation. 

Kaley Roosen
graduated Summa Cum Laude at York University’s Masters in Psychology Program. She is currently completing her doctorate degree in Clinical Psychology at York University.

Diagnosed with muscular dystrophy at the age of 12, Kaley has become intimately involved in disability advocacy within all aspects of her life. Her passions include research, psychotherapy, teaching and community service.

A successful scholar, Kaley received both her undergraduate degree (summa cum laude) and master’s degree in psychology at York University in Toronto. During her university career, she has been the recipient of numerous research and leadership awards, including the Terry Fox Humanitarian Award and the Vanier Canada CIHR Graduate Scholarship. Her research interests include: body image and disordered eating, disability and psychotherapy, and pain and coping. Her current doctoral research includes an in-depth analysis of body image and eating concerns in young women with physical disabilities. These women are often encouraged to lose weight by health care providers, yet are not given appropriate accessible resources. Therefore, women with disabilities are at increased risk for developing eating disorders and other unhealthy weight-loss practices. Kaley has strived to make her research and clinical training accessible to those who may benefit from it through presenting regularly at international conferences. She has published two book chapters on body image and one article on disability and psychotherapy. Kaley frequently speaks to the community on disability awareness and eating disorders and body image in women. She feels that both of these topic areas are important health and societal concerns. For example, Kaley strongly advocates for discussion of body acceptance and safe, healthy “non-dieting” approaches to weight management, particularly for any women with chronic illnesses.

Kaley’s life experiences as a wheelchair user have provided her with a unique perspective on what it means to be excluded from parts of society due to accessibility barriers. More importantly, these experiences have taught her how this feels. This helps her to truly empathize with her psychotherapy clients who have been similarly marginalized based on disability, gender or race. She entered into the educational path of clinical psychology particularly after experiencing first-hand how seeking support from other women with disabilities can be very validating and empowering. She hopes to continue her research program on the psychosocial experiences on being a woman with a disability in order to develop unique psychotherapies that can address the feelings of oppression or trauma many of these women experience on a daily basis.

Outside of academia, Kaley has devoted a great deal of her time to community service. She recalls how becoming involved in volunteer work after her diagnoses has helped her grow in her identity as a woman with a disability. Throughout her university career, she has volunteered through offering peer support, tutoring/mentoring, and rehabilitation support and research. She is also involved in creating a sense of community within her university by coordinating orientations for new students, yearly conferences, training workshops and social events. Kaley’s true passion lies in her disability advocacy as the Vice-Chair of Students on Access York’s Operations Committee. York University’s disability advisory committee advocates for persons with disabilities on York campus through educational campaigns and the removal of barriers for accessible education. Despite the rewarding experience of working one-on-one in psychotherapy with women with disabilities, Kaley realizes that individual empowerment and coping skills are not sufficient on their own. There is a strong need to continually fight for improved accessibility on a societal level. Changing access both on a societal and individual level motivates Kaley to continually move forward with her dynamic career choice and community service goals.

Frances Truong
B.A. Hons, M.A. Candidate 2013, Law and Legal Studies, Carleton University

Frances Truong is a Master of Arts candidate in Legal Studies at Carleton University. Her research interest focuses on the advancement of social justice for those who are disadvantaged on the basis of their race, gender, social class and/or other social categories. Her current research project is on the issue of violence against women particularly for marginalized women.

Frances’ personal experience, academic background, and community engagement has allowed her to understand the social, political and economic structures that limit equal access to opportunities and resources for marginalized groups.

Growing up on social assistance, Frances understood at a young age many of the obstacles facing the poor. As a result of her low socio-economic status, she has encountered a number of disadvantages including access to affordable housing, adequate standard of health, food, clothing and education. Despite limitations in accessing education, with much effort, Frances was able to excel in her academics, being the first in her family to graduate high school, much less university with high honours.

Her experience also as a poor Chinese-Vietnamese woman who has experienced domestic violence and life within a shelter encourages her to understand many of the lived experiences of the barriers faced by women who flee domestic violence particularly those marginalized along multiple identities such as race, class and gender. This experience as a survivor has strengthened her determination in advocating for social justice for poor, racialized women like herself in overcoming obstacles to accessing resources and opportunities as a result of their marginalization, including access to social assistance and safe affordable permanent housing.

Frances graduated from York University with a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Law and Society. Through this program, Frances grew as a critical legal scholar, analyzing and questioning the social and legal structures which perpetuate the continued marginalization of the poor, racialized individuals and women. Upon graduation from York University, Frances took a break from academia and pursued volunteer work at the Daily Bread Food Bank in Toronto, working directly with low-income individuals with diverse barriers to adequate economic resources and providing support in accessing food assistance. Consistently commended for her commitment to volunteer services, volunteering 3-5 days a week, often times 8-10 hours a day, Frances was awarded with a certificate recognizing her hard work. She continues her volunteer work with Daily Bread Food Bank between her current studies in Ottawa and her travels home to Toronto.

Upon completion of her master’s program, Frances plans to apply her research and experience in advocating for the rights of disenfranchised women. She is interested in examining the role of the law in maintaining the class and gender divide. She would like to incorporate her own lived experiences at a shelter as well as her other experiences in life to demonstrate how poor, racialized women are placed in a position of disadvantage within society. She aims to challenge and dismantle the social and legal systems which limit and exclude the protection and participation of women.

Pamela Verma
graduated with her medical degree at the University of British Columbia, Honours Bachelor of Science, Cell and Developmental Biology, and will pursue further training in Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Toronto in September, 2012

Pamela Verma is a dynamic young leader in the field of medicine who will begin a new journey, training as an Obstetrician Gynecologist at the University of Toronto this fall.

She graduates from the University of British Columbia with its highest distinction of Wesbrook Scholar for her contributions to the community, in addition to her academic excellence.

Pamela was chosen as a recipient for the Soroptomist Foundation of Canadian Women Graduate Students for her long-standing contribution to women’s health and equity issues in all aspects of her clinical, academic, and philanthropic interests.

She serves as an advocate for women’s health issues and the role of women in the medical profession as Director of Communications for the Young Forum of the Medical Women International Association (MWIA) and as National Student Representative on the Board of the Federation of Medical Women of Canada (FWMC).

Pamela’s contributions to research include providing a gender-based lens to basic and clinical scientific issues. Her most prominent contributions have been for work on the effects of prenatal alcohol exposure on male and female offspring. She has published these works in reputable publications such as the New York Academy of Sciences (NYAS) and Neuroscience and Biobehavioural Reviews.

Her interest in medical education has led her to partner with the Next Generation University to develop a month-long online course for international health workers on the issues of domestic and family violence. This is a peer-reviewed, freely-available learning resource that provides healthcare workers from diverse backgrounds an opportunity to access free and credible medical education.

Beyond her work in medicine, Pamela is an avid writer and editor. She currently writes for the National Medical Journal of India and the South Asian Women’s Magazine. At her university, she is fondly remembered as a founding editor of internationally-acclaimed UBC Medical Journal. For this work she received the Canadian Medical Association’s Leadership Innovation award.

Her passion for women’s rights through health and reproductive freedom is the driving force behind her career goals. This is clearly represented by her closing statements from her admissions essay, “When I eventually retire from practice, I want to reflect fondly on a career as an Academic Obstetrician Gynecologist who was a respected colleague, a technically superior surgeon, but above all, remembered fondly by her patients”.

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