4 Fatima Muhammad, Nigerian nurse

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persblog.be – Edition 2014.11.13 – Fatima B. Muhammad leads an inspiring team who take great risks to bring healthcare to mothers and babies in Gombe, a state in the troubled north-eastern region of Nigeria. She became a successful programme manager at NGO ‘Society for Family Health Nigeria’.

Fatima Muhammad
Fatima Muhammad

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Fatima Muhammad: “Nurses were viewed as loose women”

“Fatima B. Muhammad has been on the front-lines of innovating around the delivery of Maternal and Child care as a midwife and midwife educator in Nigeria for the past 20 years.” She has Master’s Degree in ‘Applied Population Research’ from ‘Exeter University’ in the UK. Fatima has led a series of difficult projects, working on issues including family planning, health of newborns, social marketing project of contraception services and products.

Fatima Muhammad
Fatima Muhammad

She is currently the ‘Demand Side Advisor’ for the ‘Department for International Development (DFID) in the UK  – supporting Maternal, Newborn and Child Health project being implemented in 6 states of Northern Nigeria. If there is any change theory in public health – Fatima has probably tried it out and can give you an informed opinion on if it works or not, and why from her context.”

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That is how Fatima Muhammad is presented by the ‘TEDxEuston’ taking place in London, UK, on December 6 2014. This stage aims to reflect ideas and inspired thinking of a new generation of African thinkers and leaders, presenting to an audience committed to engaging in an active manner. Their motto: “Challenging conventional wisdom about the African continent”.

Child care
Child care

In an interview with published on the newssite ‘Ideas’ – a publication of ‘London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine’ in 2013,

Fatima Muhammad speaks about leadership in maternal and newborn health but also about herself, her inspiration and her endeavour to achieve professional goals. It was in northwest Nigeria at a time when an infection was thought to be witchcraft and women went on to marry, not work, that Fatima found her focus in life. After seeing nurses save her youngest brother’s life, she knew she wanted to work in health.

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Fatima Muhammad “To attain your dream is the most beautiful thing. You need to be focused and ready to work hard. Find people who will support and encourage you.”

In the interview she also mentions the difficulties for Nigerian women experience when they choose not to marry but focus on their careers. Nurses were viewed as ‘loose women’ and once Fatima had finished primary school her parents were under pressure to get their daughter on the path to marriage.

Fatima Muhammad : “I begged my parents: ‘please let me go to school’. My mother said ‘I did not go to school and I want my daughter to go to school.”

Mother and babies
Mother and babies

From being the school nurse in secondary school, Fatima went on to graduate as a midwife and later a trainer of midwives. Again, she was under pressure to marry. “I didn’t want to get married as if I married I may not have been allowed to carry on my work. I was focused on my career and my parents supported me.”

Following an MA in Population Studies at Exeter University, UK, Fatima returned to Nigeria to put her studies into practice.

 

Newborn in Nigeria
Newborn in Nigeria

“There is still much work to be done to improve maternal and newborn health in northeast Nigeria. “Years back, a lot of things were attributed to witchcraft. Now people are aware of infection and wrong management of mother and newborns. The people are no richer but more aware.”

Today, advances in knowledge about maternal and newborn healthcare are being brought to the communities and there are more hospitals so people don’t have to walk so far to reach healthcare, although hospitals are still generally ill equipped.

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F.D.

 

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