In most medical schools in Nigeria, there is a common saying that girls make the better students and boys the better doctors. As sexist as this statement seems, it is the reality for most. The cultural landscape of the country often limits women from reaching the peak of their careers. The average Nigerian woman, al- beit educated, is expected to prepare for family and place the needs of the family ahead of hers. This extra pressure to be the main carer in the family, to cater to her husband and children impacts her opportunity to pursue her career and hone her skills.
Although some women manage to balance this cultural pressure with their educational and career goals, for others it is a major challenge. Health sector is supposed to cater to the physical, social and mental needs of patients but the Nigerian health sector falls short at attending to these needs with its professionals. It is on this note that Dr Eleanor Nwadinobi, who shattered the glass ceiling, broke gender stereotype to become the first Nigerian President of the Medical Women’s International Association (MWIA) and was recently inducted with seven others into the Nigeria Women Hall of Fame, called on the Federal Government to reinstate respect for the medical personnel.
“As Nigeria transitions into a new dispensation, it is time for us to wake up and to reinstate respect for our medical personnel, to restore the dig- dignity of those who care for the sick as well as save those that are dying. Similarly, it is time to reverse medical tourism. With good leadership Nigeria can be the preferred destination for excellence in health care,” she said. She laments the nation’s poor working condition and how it has encouraged more Nigerians to seek greener pastures in other countries. “Nigerian leaders who travel out of Nigeria only to be attended to by Nigerians who were forced to leave due to poor working conditions should first explain to Nigerians what they have contributed to health care in Nigeria.
It is time for us to honour the Abuja Declaration of 22 years ago. In 2001 on this very soil when the Heads of State of the African Union (AU) came together and made a pact, a promise and a binding commitment that they would ensure that 15 percent of their national budgets would go to health. They failed on their promise. “I am known to be an unapologetic woman of faith and therefore my prayer is that Nigeria will wake up and rise again to ensure the health and well-being of her people,” she added.
Hall of Fame
Speaking on her induction, the president expressed gratitude to God for keeping her to witness such honour. “It is with great delight and in humility that I receive the honour to be inducted into Nigeria’s Hall of Fame for first achievers. I give the complete glory to God Almighty for allowing me to witness this because I know that there are those who are celebrated posthumously and I consider it a privilege to witness this while I am still alive,” she said. She emphasised that the award will serve as an example to girls who were not preferred because they were girls on account of son preference.
“I pray that this honour serves as an example to girls like me who were not preferred because they were girls on account of son preference. Women like me who encountered twists and turns and the winding paths of life and yet overcame it. Indeed, the path of the just is like a shining light shining brighter and brighter unto the perfect day.”
She acknowledged the support of members of her family as the major force that pushed her to the position she’s currently occupying. “I could not have done this without my husband of 40 years, who is by my side encouraging me; encouragement is like sunlight to a closed flower. He caused each one of my petals to open up and embrace the sunlight he brings into my life. Also, I could not have done this without my very supportive children, grandchildren, siblings’ extended family, besties and friends who are my cheerleaders.”
Nwadinobi is passionate about bringing an end to gender based violence. “As a president of widow’s devel- opment association, I joined in ad- vocating for law protecting widows in Enugu State. As International President of Medical Women’s International Association, the plat- form is an opportunity for me to raise my voice of advocacy. There is an Igbo proverb that says: ‘When we wake up it is your morning’. “I invite you to join in advocating for this pinnacle of global commitment in calling for a global treaty to end all forms of violence against women and girls in all their diversity.
More importantly by joining in this advocacy, we, you and I will have our names written in gold in the everlasting hall of fame because together we agonised, organised, convened, marched, occupied, sang, danced and we even undressed and it was recorded against our names for posterity. “My global assignment is ending every form of violence against women and girls. I do have a dream and that dream is that, one day, the violence that our women and girls suffer today will be found only in horror chambers of museums.”
“We are survivors of the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic reminded us that it is only when we are healthy that we can do ev- erything else,” she noted.
On what she is bringing to the table Nwadinobi said: “If it doesn’t exist already, I propose an alumnus inductee. Those who are living will put our heads together to support the maintenance of the hall of fame.”