July 12, 2020

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Awards recognize exceptional women

photos by Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press
Rachel Byrka received the Young Woman of Distinction award.

photos by Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press Rachel Byrka received the Young Woman of Distinction award.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 7/5/2015 (1892 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A gathering of "unique and exemplary" women was honoured at the 2015 YMCA-YWCA Women of Distinction Awards Wednesday night at the RBC Convention Centre.

Awards were presented to 12 recipients, and more than 60 nominees were recognized.

CBC's Diana Swain was the host to more than 600 guests at the sold-out event.

"Each year we ask the community to share the stories of Manitoban women who are trailblazing, advocating and change-making. This is our 39th annual awards and, once again, the stories are awe-inspiring," Melanie Verhaeghe, chairwoman of the Women of Distinction steering committee and a past award recipient, said in a press release.

Free Press perspectives and politics editor Shannon Sampert was a nominee Wednesday night.

Free Press perspectives and politics editor Shannon Sampert was a nominee Wednesday night.

"Your dedication and commitment has not gone unnoticed," Verhaeghe said in congratulating all of the nominees at the start of the ceremony.

Dr. Chander Gupta, a renowned urogynecologist and advocate for women's health, was presented with the Eira "Babs" Friesen Lifetime Achievement Award. Gupta is known as a pioneer in performing Manitoba's first tension-free vaginal tape (TVT) procedure, which has improved the quality of life for countless women suffering from stress incontinence. She was the driving force behind the provincial government allowing unrestricted funding of the procedure for all Manitobans who need it.

Rachel Ashley Byrka, a 19-year-old singer-songwriter and actress, was the recipient of the Young Women of Distinction award in recognition of how she turned her negative life experiences into positive ways to help others. Byrka was bullied in school and battled depression, but has become an advocate for healthy eating and anti-bullying. She has toured 300 schools across Canada to share her messages with students.

Dr. Samar Safi-Harb, the recipient of the Science, Technology and Research award, came to the University of Manitoba after leaving a long-term Space Astrophysics NASA grant at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. At the U of M, she established a graduate research program in astrophysics, developed the astronomy and astrophysics curriculum and has played a key role in producing the first generation of U of M graduates in astronomy and astrophysics.

Dr. Anna Stokke loves math and was the recipient of the Community Activism and Social Enterprise award in recognition of her dedication to improving mathematics education in Manitoba schools. Stokke played a leading role the introduction of significant changes to the kindergarten to Grade 8 math curriculum in 2013.

Shannon Sampert, the first perspectives and politics editor at the Winnipeg Free Press, was nominated in the Public Awareness and Communications category for her work in writing forcefully and courageously about issues such as date rape, menstruation and sexism in politics and boardrooms.

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