It’s important not to stigmatize citizens of China, but learn from their response to the virus - Paul Ukpabio's Blog


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Saturday, 7 March 2020

It’s important not to stigmatize citizens of China, but learn from their response to the virus

-Dr Eleanor Nwadinobi (President, Medical Women International Association, USA)

Dr Eleanor Nwadinobi, is the President of Medical Women International Association (MWIA), United States of America; the Founding co-chair of Steering Committee, Every Woman Treaty and the co-country representative for the Working Group on Women Youth Peace and Security for the UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS).
In this interview with PAUL UKPABIO, the partly Jamaican woman speaks about the dreaded Coronavirus outbreak, her love life, particularly how she found love with a Nigerian prince, and her job as a woman who is continually trotting the globe for national and international assignments, among others.

We understand that you are the first Nigerian to emerge as President of the 100-year-old Medical Women International Association (MWIA) in the United States of America, what does that mean to you?

Yes indeed. I am the first Nigerian to emerge as the president of the Medical Women’s International Association. I am immensely grateful to God for this honor to serve the global association and to make an impact on my generation especially with regards to the health and well-being of women and girls globally.

As President what are the challenges that you see?
There are global challenges that are peculiar to the different regions in the world. For example in the global south we are still grappling with issues of high maternal mortality and harmful traditional practices

You have been the President of the Enugu branch of the Association and also the National President of the Association in Nigeria, what has it been like managing professional women generally over the years, what lessons have you learnt on a lighter mood?

Over the years I have learned that managing professional women is like conducting an orchestra. It is important to realize that everybody brings something important to that collective that ends up as a symphony and once I discover a particular skill in a member it is important to make her realize how crucial her role is and to call on her to play that role in order for that harmony to be evident. It is also important to inject an element of fun in all that we do.

What prompted you into the medical profession?
My parents informed me that as a very young child I came across a road traffic accident and began at that young age, to talk about wanting to be in the medical profession to help people in need.

As a child, what were your dreams? Who did you hope to be like in the future?

As a child, I always dreamed of traveling the world and seeing diverse cultures and enjoying the beautiful sights around the world which I read about in books. I also dreamed of being an ambassador and spokesperson.

Let’s look back, while growing up; did you envisage that one day you would be this successful in your chosen profession?

Looking back I envisaged and believed that I would be successful because my mother instilled in me the courage and belief that I could do all things through Christ who strengthens me. So I continued on a daily basis to strive towards being successful.

How did your background contribute to who you are today?

I was brought up in a Christian family which gave me a firm grounding regarding the faith belief system discipline and love for my neighbor. My parents were educated and therefore education was an important launch pad. In addition, our lifestyle was modest.

It is important for me to recognize the important role that my faith has played in bringing me to where I am today. As a woman of faith I believe strongly in the guidance that comes from God. I am grateful to my parents my father one of Nigeria‘s pioneer veterinary surgeons and my mother a nurse. My mother instilled in me courage and believe in myself. Whenever there seemed to be an obstacle she would say “Nothing is impossible with God, there is always a way,” and she would find a way around the obstacle.

What are your fears about Coronavirus now that it is in Nigeria?

As with any global health emergency or pandemic, I have concerns regarding how our already overstretched and under funded health system will cope. However I am confident that in the same way that Nigeria dealt with Ebola that we can also deal with the coronavirus. The responses I have seen so far are encouraging in the sense that the leaders in the health sector have been responsive very open with information sensitization and dispelling rumors.

We had Ebola virus spread in Nigeria and a woman professional was among those at the forefront of the treatment, are you looking at a repeat?

Indeed we do have a health champion in the person of late doctor Adadevor who paid the ultimate price when we had the Ebola virus. I must say that we have male and female health care professionals who are dedicated to saving lives daily and should be applauded. We must understand that doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals put their lives at risk on a daily basis while in the line of duty, in the process of saving lives. Not too long ago one of our colleagues was physically violated by patient relatives and we held a protest march in the FCT to protest in solidarity with our colleague.

What can you say about recent disease occurrences in China, what has China got to do with it?

We are all aware that’s the coronavirus was first discovered in China and it is important that we do not stigmatize citizens of China but instead learn from how they responded to the virus and look carefully at what improvements can be made.

The reaction in Europe especially Italy seems to be slow as compared to the response in China and South Korea, what happened in Europe, why are they slow in coming up in containing the spread of Coronavirus and finding a cure?

Finding a vaccine should now be a global assignment. This is the time for researchers to get to work to find a suitable vaccine and to find out the disease pattern so that we are better prepared.

Would it be right to say that you are attached to Enugu as a place?

I have attachments to Enugu as a city because that is where I studied in the University of Nigeria teaching hospital and I lived there with my family and my children grew up there.

What fond memories do you have of that coal city?

I have very fond memories of a safe and family oriented city.
Again will it be right to say that you are an activist when it comes to violence against women? Do you think women suffer violence?

I am an unapologetic activist against violence against women and girls. I am president of the Widows development organization and organization that supports the rights of widows against harmful traditional practice. I am also currently the Founding co -chair of the steering committee of the Every woman treaty. This is a coalition of Frontline activists calling for a global treaty to end all forms of violence against women and girls. 

One in three women and girls has faced some one form of violence or the other and this is totally unacceptable. It is both a human rights and public health emergency and only a global treaty will ensure that women and girls are safer sooner globally. I recently co- authored a report that was put together on global violence against women and girls by 1700 activists in 128 countries called the “Safer sooner “report.

What role do you think we all have to play with regards to women, youth, peace and security?

Women have a crucial influential and meaningful role to play with regards to women youth peace and security. On a daily basis in our communities and in informal spaces women bring peace to their households and communities however they are less recognized in the formal spaces when it comes to mediation and negotiation for peace.

Most often people in the medical profession marry people in the medical profession, is that the case with you?

In some cases you will find colleagues in the medical profession who married within the medical profession probably because they had the opportunity to meet and date in the course of their study and work. This was the case for example with my father. My father was a veterinary doctor and my mother a nurse. I am happily married to a business man.

What was your attraction to your husband was it loves at first sight?

I met my husband in the University and I was attracted by his kindness for people and the fact that he was very sociable and God-fearing.

Did you know that your husband is a prince when you met him, and were you worried about that? What was your parent’s reaction?

I did not know that my husband is a prince when I met him. Because I grew up in a different culture I had not been exposed to the traditional ruler ship system. It was when I got to our home town that I fully understood that my husband is a prince by virtue of his father being the traditional leader of his community: because my uncle, my father’s older brother was the traditional leader of his community I was considered to be a princess. So in essence it was a royal wedding.

What endears you most to the Igbo culture?

I enjoy the Igbo culture, music, food and traditional weddings and I do hope and pray that these colourful aspects of the Igbo culture are sustained. 

As a married woman, with a challenging career, how do you cope with work and the home front?

It is quite challenging as a professional and a married woman to ensure good work life balance. One has to juggle career, family life, interests, socializing and hobbies but that is what makes life fun. I am happiest when I have put a smile on somebody else’s face I do this through encouraging people especially young people mentoring and fighting for the rights of human beings especially women and girls.

As a woman, what was the most challenging duty you had to undertake in the course of duty? 

My most challenging time as a professional woman was having to work as an emergency doctor on call in the United kingdom. This involved covering theatre, obstetrics, intensive care and the emergency air ambulance at a time when my children were very young. It was such a blessing to have my mother around to help me with the children at that time.

Did you live in Jamaica at all, if you lived there, how different are the two cultures from another, I mean Nigeria and Jamaica?

I am proud of my Jamaican heritage from my mother’s side. I did not have the opportunity of living in Jamaica but I know quite a bit about their culture. There are similarities between Nigeria and Jamaica.

Do you miss not having grown or live in Jamaica, any special reason you didnt live there?

I would have loved to have lived in Jamaica for some time to fully get to know my mother’s people but, she left Jamaica in her late teens to start her nursing education in the UK and made the UK her home.

What lifestyle of the Jamaicans that you do not joke about and what lifestyle of the Nigerians that appeals to you most?

I love the Jamaican food and music. Thankfully most of the ingredients are available in Nigeria but they are cooked differently.

Your husband is a businessman and you are a core professional, how do you balance that at home?

With my husband being in business, it has worked quite well because we have been able to complement one another in our professions and in our relationship where we bring our different personalities and skills and experience together to spice up our relationship, which creates a beautiful blend.

In your spare time what do you do?

In my spare time I read go to the gym socialize and watch movies, watch plays in the theater and travel.

Are you a fashion buff, do you follow fashion trends?

I have my own very unique fashion. My style has to be first comfortable, modest, unique and I love some bling.

What fashion accessories do you not do without?

My must-have fashion accessory would be my earrings.

You must have travelled to different countries, which one has left a lasting impression on you?

I have done a fair amount of traveling but the country that has left a lasting impression on me is Israel. Israel was a spiritual and a romantic visit for my husband and I.

What does success mean to you?

I strongly believe that success is a destination which every individual should strive for on a daily basis and that it is made up of victories along  life‘s journey . The minute you think you have succeeded then you have in essence stopped striving for better and it is downhill after that. Every day I look for opportunities to work towards the next victory. I celebrate each victory on my road to success. 

Regarding my relationship with other people it is important to encourage one another. Somebody said ‘encouragement is like sunlight to a closed flower.’ It gives me joy to be the sunshine to someone and to put a smile on somebody’s face.

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