Cheryl Sobie

Mobilizing Aboriginal Women’s Right to Food in the City, MA (candidate), Department of Environment and Geography, University of Manitoba

Cheryl SobieI grew up in Winnipeg, a city characterized by varying depths of poverty and socioeconomic status. The inequities I witnessed growing up led me to question why such differences existed within Winnipeg neighbourhoods. At age 11, I completed a project about women suffragettes and in a sense, discovered ‘feminism’ and learned about the severe injustice women face in our society. As I got older I realized that women were not the only group of people facing systematic oppression and from then on I dedicated myself to joining the movement to achieve equity for all people in society. After exploring alternate career opportunities and educational interests I found myself back at the University of Manitoba in the fall of 2009 where I joined the Department of Environment and Geography to pursue a Bachelor of Environmental Studies. I met many inspiring people and professors in my quest for knowledge, one of which was my supervisor, Dr. Jeffrey Masuda.

My undergraduate honours thesis research, advised by Dr. Jeff Masuda, explored food insecurity in Winnipeg from the perspective of low-income Aboriginal single mothers and their food provisioning experiences. To conduct this research I was fortunate to establish a relationship with the community at Ka Ni Kanichihk Inc., which has enabled me to conduct my undergraduate thesis work with women who attend the programming. As part of my master thesis, we are continuing to build on the findings from my undergraduate thesis research to further scrutinize the health effects of food insecurity experienced by urban Aboriginal mothers in Winnipeg. Beginning in February 2012, women from the Honouring Gifts program at Ka Ni and I have designed and carried out a feminist participatory action research project, ‘Women’s Right to Food’ to examine food related mobilities in the city. Our research has documented how an inadequate transportation system, experiences of racism during grocery shopping journeys, and challenges in securing affordable healthy foods represent three forms of injustice faced by these women.

By immersing myself in the community at Ka Ni Kanichihk over the past few years, I have developed strong relationships with the staff, fellow program facilitators and with each of the women who are participating in our research project. My role has grown beyond that of a student researcher, to that of a friend, confidant and positive role model and support for the women participants. This has led me to recognize my true passion of working with people to help them improve their health and well-being through community programming. My dedication to social justice and community based activism had provided me with an amazing opportunity to work with the inspirational community of women in Winnipeg who are motivated to create change for others in their communities.

I was fortunate to receive funding for my graduate thesis research from the Manitoba Alternative Research Alliance (MAFRA) and as a result I have gained access to the MAFRA student research group, which has enabled me to connect my research to the food justice network in Manitoba. I was awarded the Network Environments for Aboriginal Health Research (NEAHR) graduate fellowship last year and currently hold a Manitoba Graduate Scholarship, both of which have helped me to devote my time and energy to my research project.

In addition to pursuing my research goals, I am passionate about communicating and advocating for social justice issues including feminism, animal rights, and urban heath inequities. In my spare time I enjoy practicing yoga, gardening, cooking and reading. I consider myself extremely fortunate to be part of the CEHE research team and am excited to be nearing completion of my graduate degree.

Contact: cherylsobie(at)gmail.com

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