Women Inspire: Dr. Bunmi Ajibua

This post is the sixth in a series of interviews from women and girls at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) in Georgetown, Guyana.

I’m here in Georgetown, Guyana to conduct interviews with inspiring women and girls and to listen to their stories. Recently, I got the wonderful opportunity to meet with Dr. Bunmi Ajibua, 30, and discover what drives her, what motivates her, and more.

What made you interested in becoming a doctor?

A: My environment in school. When I was eight and nine years old, my school was located within a hospital compound. I always saw doctors walking around and was very inquisitive. I wanted to be like them. It is because of them that I grew interested in caring for people.

What is your favorite part about being a doctor?

A: I love seeing the smiles on my patients’ faces, seeing them happy, and hearing them say, “Thank you I feel better.”

Who inspires you and why?

A: My sister inspires me. She is seven years older than me and works as a nurse. She is very passionate and hardworking – she’s my rock. She is everything that I want to be. I admire her strength and her work ethic.

Why is women’s health important to you?

A: Women are the rock of any institution, house, and/or family. When women are sick, they aren’t able to care for their family. Healthy women create a strong family base and help provide for their children.

What is the one thing you’re most proud of in your career or in life?

A: I’m proud to be a Christian and to love God and to know God. As a doctor, I see miracles happen everyday. I’m also proud of my achievements and that I have become the person I am today – both in terms of how I treat people and how I allow myself to be treated by others.

What are some challenges you have faced?

A: There have been a lot of financial challenges. I’ve made many sacrifices to get where I am today. I am originally from Nigeria, but I went to medical school in Ukraine. In Ukraine, I faced a lot of racial discrimination that, at times, could be very challenging to overcome.

What advice would you give to young women and girls who want to make a difference?

A: Have a goal. A positive goal. Have a goal that you know will make you a better person. Have a goal and work towards that goal. For women, men can be a major distraction. You must focus on your studies first and foremost. Get where you’re going and there you’ll find men of a higher caliber who will respect you for the woman you are.

The Young Women of Tutorial High

Walterine, Principal of Tutorial High School; Image c/o Elisabeth Epstein
Walterine, Principal of Tutorial High School; Image c/o Elisabeth Epstein

I met Walterine during my Baltimore to Guyana layover in the Panama City airport. Seeing that I was reading a Guyana guidebook, Walterine, a proud Guyanese, excitedly sat down next to me and began asking about my trip and my plans while in Guyana.

​I explained to Walterine that I worked with Girls’ Globe and would be speaking with women and girls at Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC). Coincidentally (and serendipitously), Walterine worked as the principal of a local high school. Loving the Girls’ Globe mission, she invited me to visit her school and speak to her girls about women’s and girls’ empowerment.

Happily, I accepted.

Last week, I had the fantastic opportunity to work with 200 young women (aged 13-14) at Tutorial High School. Not only were students engaged and excited to share their ideas about gender equality, but they also were incredibly knowledgeable about gender-related issues.

FullSizeRenderAfter telling the girls a little bit about myself and about Girls’ Globe, I gave a brief introduction about why ensuring gender equality and empowering young girls is crucial for development – tackling topics like HIV/AIDS, family planning, economic security, maternal health, education, and more.

But I wasn’t there to talk. I was there to listen. I wanted to hear their perspectives on gender equality and empowerment.

At that point, I separated the class into several smaller discussion groups, giving each table a poster and a different question to answer.

A few of the questions included:

  • What is your favorite part about being a girl?
  • What are some of the challenges of being a girl?
  • Why is gender equality important to you?
  • What does empowerment mean to you?
  • What are some of the barriers to gender equality?
Classroom at Tutorial High School; Image c/o Elisabeth Epstein
Classroom at Tutorial High School; Image c/o Elisabeth Epstein

While the girls brainstormed their answers, I began to realize how daunting a task staying in school could be – not only due to outside factors, but to the school building’s infrastructure as well. The classroom was long and narrow, with only three dusty chalkboards, no erasers, and one piece of chalk. The room, when filled to capacity (as it was), didn’t allow for the vast majority of students to have a clear view of a chalkboard. Square holes dotted the walls, allowing a cool breeze to sweep across the room – a necessity for a school that lacks air conditioning in a tropical climate. However, as a consequence, outside noises easily distracted and students in the back struggled to hear. In such an environment, it would be easy for anyone to drift off, daydream, and fall behind, inevitably causing a snowball effect that could haunt the rest of your life.

Students share what empowerment means to them; Image c/o Elisabeth Epstein
Students share what empowerment means to them; Image c/o Elisabeth Epstein

When the groups finished brainstorming, each group presented their answers to the entire class. I was blown away by the honesty and creativity of these young women. Students took on difficult topics and responded in various and equally impressive ways. Although each group was powerful in its own right, I have to admit I had a few favorites.

When asked the question “What does empowerment mean to you?”, Shannae, 13, responded with a poem:

Give but don’t allow yourself

to be used.

Love but don’t allow your

Heart to be abused.

Trust but don’t be naive.

Listen to others but don’t 

Lose your own voice…

Another group with the same question drew a cartoon of a man and a woman talking. The man asks the woman if he could touch her private parts. The woman responds, “No, but you can touch your own.” (At which point in the presentation, the room erupted in laughter.)

When describing the challenges of being a girl, one group had each group member trace her hand on the poster and, within the lines of her own hand, write a challenge. A heartbreaking question, these young women answered with strength and courage, proudly presenting their poster to the class.  Challenges listed included bullying, low self-esteem, boys, peer pressure, puberty, and not being wanted.

As expected, the favorite and most exciting question to answer was “What is your favorite part about being a girl?” Answers included a wide range of activities such as manicures and pedicures, exercising, listening to music, going to school, and more.

I am honored to have had the opportunity to meet these incredible and smart young women. After feeling the class’ energy and hearing their ideas, I am confident these girls are already on the path to success. And as much as I hope the girls learned a lot both from me and each other, I am positive that I learned a lot more from them.

I’ll soon be returning to Tutorial High to repeat this lesson with a younger class – and I can’t wait to see what they’ll teach me.

 

 

Women Inspire: Onika Harris

This post is the fifth in a series of interviews from women and girls at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) in Georgetown, Guyana.

I’m here in Georgetown, Guyana to conduct interviews with inspiring women and girls and to listen to their stories. Last week, I met Onika Harris (second from the left), 29, on a beautiful, sunny day when she was walking with her fellow nursing students across the GPHC compound. Full of laughter and joy, Onika and her friends could undoubtedly put a smile on anyone’s face.

What made you interested in becoming a nurse?

A: I have always wanted to be a nurse for as long as I can remember. I’m really passionate about helping people.

What is your favorite part about being a nurse?

A: I love getting an up close view of the organs that keep us alive. It’s fascinating.

Who inspires you and why?

A: Dr. House on TV! I love him because he always gets the job done, no matter how difficult the case may be.

Why is women’s health important to you?

A: Women are 50 percent responsible for our future! Our health matters.

What is the one thing you’re most proud of in your career or in life?

A: I’m proud that I have made it this far in my career without help from my parents – financially, emotionally, or physically.

What are some challenges you have faced?

A: Money is a major barrier. But I try not to stress over it. What does stress accomplish?

What advice would you give to young women and girls who want to make a difference?

A: Go after what you desire. Not what others want for you.

Women Inspire: Dr. Priscilla Joseph

This post is the fourth in a series of interviews from women and girls at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) in Georgetown, Guyana.

I’m here in Georgetown, Guyana to conduct interviews with inspiring women and girls and to listen to their stories. Recently, I met Dr. Priscilla Joseph, 30, in the GPHC emergency department. A role model for girls around the world, Priscilla filled me in on why she wanted to become a doctor and who inspires her.

What made you interested in becoming a doctor?

A: I wanted to be a doctor because I love helping people. My parents were also a great influence in my life because they recognized my interest and wholeheartedly supported and emphasized the importance of education in life – but particularly in order to become a nurse.

What is your favorite part about being a doctor?

A: In my opinion, seeing the successful health outcomes and seeing patients survive traumatic accidents and illness is the greatest part about being a doctor.

Who inspires you and why?

A: When I was younger, I read the book Gifted Hands by Ben Carson. Carson is a neurosurgeon and grew up in poverty. When he was young, he never thought success was attainable, but he continued to persevere and was determined to prove himself wrong. Eventually, he became the first doctor to separate Siamese twins. It just goes to show that if you’re disciplined in your passion, you can do anything.

Why is women’s health important to you?

“By working with [youths], I hope to inspire them to become whatever they want to be – and I’m proud of that.”

A: When women have sexual and reproductive health problems, that negatively influences their outlook on life. Not having the choice to choose whether or not to have a baby and not being able to be reproductive are two very different things.

What are some challenges you have faced?

A: Some patients will never accept the fact that a woman is their doctor. This is really annoying. Patients will call you ‘nurse’ and all you can do is correct them or ignore them and continue working. Also, financial restraints are always challenging. I often pull more shifts for the extra money.

What is the one thing you’re most proud of in your career or in life?

A: I can be a great influence to patients and youths. Besides being a doctor, I also work with youth groups in more rural areas. For them, it is uncommon to meet and know doctors, especially female doctors. By working with them, I hope to inspire them to become whatever they want to be – and I’m proud of that.

What advice would you give to young women and girls who want to make a difference?

A: You must find your passion and do your best at what you love.