“Learning how to be an activist helped shift my focus from being a sufferer of a chronic illness to advocating for disability rights in general.” — Valdine Flaming, MGEU Bursary winner
Winnipeg (27 Feb. 2018) — In June 2015, Valdine Flaming, a member of the Manitoba Government and General Employees' Union (MGEU/NUPGE), was selected by her union to attend the Prairie School for Women, an intensive 4-day course where union women develop their personal and leadership skills.
Bursary winner focusing on disablity studies
“I was still young, but I’d been living with multiple sclerosis for some time,” Flaming says. “Learning how to be an activist helped shift my focus from being a sufferer of a chronic illness to advocating for disability rights in general.”
Once elected to the union’s Equality and Human Rights Committee, her passion grew. In 2016, she decided to take a leave from her job and pursue a Master’s degree in disability studies.
“Receiving a $1,000 MGEU bursary to help with the cost of my University of Manitoba courses was a great launching pad,” she says. “It helped give me the confidence to apply for other funding, including the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Scholarship (QES).”
New Zealand experience led to work with Métis women facing chronic illness
Thanks to the QES, she spent 3 months last year in New Zealand, working to evaluate health programs aimed at preventing chronic conditions among the Maori people.
“It was life changing,” she says. “I’d always struggled a bit with my Metis identity, not sure how to explain it, or speak up. Thanks to my experience with Indigenous people in Whanganui, I’ve come back unafraid to lead.”
Now finished her coursework, Flaming is back at her job as executive advisor to the VP of Strategic Services & Development at the University College of the North, and has just started her thesis research.
“I’m hoping to focus on the lived experiences of Metis women with chronic illness,” she says.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 390,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. — NUPGE