SFSS announces 2021 Woman of the Year Award recipients

The winners spoke on what the award means to them

Image courtesy of the Simon Fraser Student Society.

Written by: Alex Masse, Staff Writer

At the midpoint of Women’s History month, the Simon Fraser Student Society (SFSS) announced the winners of its annual Women of the Year Awards. The award honours “self-identified women who have demonstrated leadership and advocated for positive change.” The nominations included trans, nonbinary, and cis women. 

“We encourage members of our community to continue to learn about and talk about gender inequality and the role that oppressive, misogynistic, and patriarchal systems continue to play in our lives.” The nominee page included several links to resources on intersectionality, feminism, and on-campus equality groups. 

Nominees were separated by SFU faculty. The voting period closed March 12, 2021, with the winners revealed on March 15. 

The winners are: 

Applied Sciences — Yasmin Dibai 

A student of SFU’s Sustainable Energy Engineering program, Dibai is working towards her Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design GA certification. 

“I’m honoured to receive this award from SFU and SFSS and to have been in the same category as the other diligent nominees!” Dibai said.

Alongside her studies, she is the president of Women in Clean Tech (WiCT) and vice-president at the Sustainable Energy Engineering Student Society (SEESS). At SEESS, she runs social media and merchandise, alongside planning and moderating events. 

“The [title] feels incredibly rewarding and motivates me to continue advocating for women and aim for bigger goals in my career.” 

Arts and Social Sciences —  Zeynep Ekin Buran 

Buran is a fifth-year student from Turkey studying criminology with a minor in psychology.

She’s led collaborative panels with UBC on accessing education as a newcomer to Canada, and currently runs career workshops for young refugees and newcomers.

“Now that I am in my very last semester, when I look back to my university life, I am proud to say that I came a long way,” Buran said. 

“I would like to thank everyone who believed in me and helped me to reach this [far]. I am grateful to be surrounded by so many positive, empowering, inspirational, and strong women from all around the world. I will always continue to work to make the world a better place [ . . . ] My goal is to not only seek for more opportunities but to create opportunities for others.” 

Business — Molly MacLeay 

MacLeay has worked as a TA and mentor to first year students. During her time at SFU JDC West, she helped raise $8,000 for charity partners facing hardships during the pandemic and brought the group the 2021 School of the Year award. 

“At the beginning of my degree four years ago, I never saw myself as a leader, but the incredible female role models in my life showed me that I could be. To have my efforts recognized is an honour and inspires me to continue giving back. Thank you to everyone that has supported me along the way, and congratulations to all the other recipients!” said MacLeay.

Communication, Art & Technology — Sara Milosavic

“As a woman in STEM, this award means a lot to me, as it means that all my hard work is being recognized,” Milosavic said. 

She recently took part in a U of T case competition which focused on making studying abroad accessible to all students, including low-income, marginalized, Indigenous, and disabled students. This aimed to  “bring the study abroad experiences to the home university.” This would “[allow] students with disabilities and others in marginalized communities to filter and find experiences that better suit their personal needs.”

“With anything I do, I strive to create change and fill in the gaps for those who may not always have a voice. I am truly grateful to receive this award and have my name alongside many other strong and successful women. Congratulations to all the winners!”

Environment — Zoya Khan 

Alongside her degree in Global Environmental Systems and certificate in Geographic Information Science, Khan is the director-at-large at Embark Sustainability, where she works in director development, governance, and strategic planning. Through these roles, she helps plan Embark’s future learning, policies, and finance. 

“I am truly grateful to be recognized alongside such beautiful and strong women working towards making a change,” Khan said. “Through my work, I have learned the importance of standing together and I feel honoured that those around me view me as someone who stands with them.” 

Health Sciences — Qudrat Aujla 

Aujla is finishing her degree in health sciences and a minor in Gerontology. She is the co-chair at SFU’s Pre-Med Society, and has been a peer mentor to incoming students during remote learning. She also works at the BC Children’s Hospital as a research assistant, where she focuses on childhood cancers and solid organ transplants.

“It’s an honor to be nominated amongst such amazing women,” said Aujla. “During my time at SFU, I’m so grateful to be part of a community with such inspirational women that have empowered me to pursue my goals. I want to thank each person who took the time to vote, it’s truly an honor [accepting] this award!”

Sciences — Marie Haddad 

Haddad is a student activist and organizer; she co-organized the SFU team name change, has worked on the SFSS BIPOC committee, and is the upcoming SFSS vice-president equity and sustainability. 

“This is such a humbling experience and an incredible honor to even be considered [woman] of the year,” Haddad said. 

“I’ve had the privilege of seeing women like my mother and grandmother who had to fight with systems and societies and still come back home to hold community together.

“This award is not about me, but it’s about the non-complicit, non-silent, disrupting women who are continuously doing the work to dismantle violent systems of oppression and supremacy —  we represent the powerful forces of change that are challenging the imbedded systems of racism, and heteropatriarchy within our discourse, society and institutions. 

“We are the collective piece of history that refuses to be erased. We are the collective resistance in front or behind every movement. Know us, know Black women, know Indigenous women, know POC women — because, without us, radical change could not be possible.”