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Opinion

Book Reviews With Oumissa #13: When a Girl is Born

Title: When a Girl is Born

Publisher: Oxford University Press

Genre: Historical fiction

Date published: 2001

Author: Pamela Grant

Read: February 2020

Quote: “At last the time had come to be glad when a girl was born” thought Ko Chin

The book is set in China in the late 19th century. It opens with the ill-treatment meted out to two Chinese girls as compared to their brother. This discrimination is upheld by most men and their mothers. This was expressed as cultural, desirability and beauty ideals in practices like feet binding which caused the girl pain and made her unable to walk long distances leaving her with the deformation of feet. Only a few of them were lucky to be educated as most fathers considered it a waste, or worse, a travesty.

Brides, uneducated, were bundled often with little idea of who their husbands were into vehicles and delivered to his family’s house like a parcel. Thus, her family was relieved of a burden. Her job was to serve his family,suffer more ill-treatment and bear him sons. If this is her experience , she is lucky to not have been sold to a family who will treat her as a slave in all of the terrible ways a girl could fear. Her only escape then would be suicide.

Her destiny is left at the mercy of the few kind men available. Our protagonist Ko Chin was rescued from being sold into slavery by a kind man who tells her the alien command that she is to choose rather than obey. He encourages her to share her opinions and values her advice. She is then able to discuss with him and his friends on topics once thought to be for men only. Like society, politics, government . In his courts she proclaims the problem with their society being that boys are treated like royalty and not trained for resilience. Hence the weak response to colonialist threats evident in their soldiers.

The unfair attention women gave to their sons is explained by the fact that husbands showered affection on other women but sons adored their mothers. On the other hand, daughters were considered an hindrance by their own mothers.

The fact that all of this occurred less than 150 years ago puts it in sordid perspective and makes you realize how far the rights of women in china has changed. It is hinted that they may have better rights in the distant past but these ebbed over time due to selfish political, colonial and religious interests.

The agitation for better treatment was kicked back to life in this book by the influence of foreigners, new politics, new religionand a yearning to be a scientifically advanced nation. 

Ko Chin’s husband and saviour, Huan Lao, is a the revolutionary who slowly helps her break the physical and emotional chains she is bound by. 

The stifling old ways however, have been so ingrained that it is difficult to adapt to his new ideas for women’s emancipation. On the other hand, she finds that freedom is not totally a bed of roses.

Bravely ,  she learns from her husband, she teaches a member of the Royal Court and eventually becomes a trusted adviser for the revolutionary movement. In spite of all this , she is locked in the frustration of having a son for a husband who places revolution ahead of intimacy.

In detailing the lives of the characters, Grant carries us through the experiences of women of that time as they navigate public life and private things like religious rituals, the home, sex, miscarriages and contraception..

The city suffers massacres but our characters narrowly escape and benefit from the cocoon of  privilege, proximity to power and pure chance.

They come in close contact with white foreigners we also see that colonized people express aspects of racism in their resistance of the oppression of the outsiders.

With her newfound position, she is able to save a her sister from a marriage that would’ve killed her. The ruling dynasty is finally forced to succumb to the new order and Ko Chin finally gives birth to a daughter. Both events symbolize a new dawn in China that this girl would have a better future.

It was a revealing read that provided many details into the life and times of women in that period in history. Many aspects of it mirror the experience elsewhere and encourages us to question systems that hold some of us back.

4 stars

Categories
Opinion

Book Reviews With Oumissa 11: A Life Elsewhere by Segun Afolabi

From the title, it is evident that this is a collection of immigrant stories. The entire work traverses the varied experiences of black people in the diaspora. For the most part, the setting of their new abode is England.
Most of them were written from a male viewpoint while the inner workings of a female mind can be strongly felt in the remaining. The age range of the characters is diverse. We find people at the end of their careers and young children analyzing their immediate environment in that intelligent yet innocent tone peculiar to them. In capturing all demographics, the author delivers a well rounded view of life as a foreigner. The common background however, appears to be South West Nigeria as heavy Yoruba presence is seen in the names, customs and memories.

In one story, a diplomat mother grapples with the cold austere winter in Japan while raising two young children. The author goes ahead to illustrate the myriad forms of life immigrants lead as medics, musicians or tourists. This rich diversity is united by one single pervading theme – the struggle of integration and acceptance in a foreign land.

People are grateful to leave poverty and a lack of opportunities behind but beyond missing the familiarity of home, they do not find it so easy to earn and save in a new land.

Navigating life outside one’s home isn’t as rosy as it appears. I found this crucial because it is still a common view in many parts of Nigeria that going abroad is the solution to any and every problem. People are grateful to leave poverty and a lack of opportunities behind but beyond missing the familiarity of home, they do not find it so easy to earn and save in a new land.

For starters, tax is more heavily enforced than in their home country. Some lose themselves in the new culture and end up in a suspended state when they disconnect with home and are still not fully accepted in the host country. This affects their state of mind, leaving them sad, lonely and distrusting of both citizens of their adopted home and rather ironically, fresh immigrants.

Everyone is thinking mostly about adjusting to the new climate, food and culture while battling old demons. There were some shocking stories in this book. Afolabi was not afraid to take us to the inner recesses of the minds of some of the characters.
With a kind of abstractness running through this work, the core narrative was in the thoughts and not in dialogue. The whole book appears to lead nowhere but the careful tapestry lies just beneath the surface. You need some level of focus to get through this as it isn’t a light read. Perhaps it is just as well that it was written as a collection since the many breaks ease the weight of what was plaintive in many places.

Categories
Opinion

Passenger – Commuting in Lagos in the rains

Rain in Lagos is a leveller. It has the power to upset your plans and make you want to cancel the whole day. But we can’t let the weather stop us. We get up, pack our books, laptops and other stuff in waterproof lining, get a sturdy umbrella, strong shoes and match on to face a new day.

This Keke was empty and I loved the upholstery (some Lagos kekes are masterpieces of decoration.) I couldn’t resist a picture with my companion for weeks now. I knew it would fit her perfectly and frankly doing this made the gloomy morning a lot brighter. Would you believe it was raining just outside? Gratefully, the breeze did not carry this darling away.

How do you handle the stress of your morning rush?

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Opinion

World Bicycle Day

Cycling engages the different muscle groups, keeping you active, strong and mentally healthy.. It reduces cost of transportation.. And by cutting back on fossil fuels spent on short distances, it helps protect the environment.

Try it for short trips to school, nearby work, to get groceries etc. Bicycle lanes by city councils will help encourage this too. Let’s end our dependence on cars for everything.

#WorldBicycleDay

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Health Opinion

Mental Health Awareness Month

Categories
Books Opinion

Twenty Fifteen Collection 1 : My Early Bookstagram Days

What to do with old things?

Four years ago, when I newly discovered this amazing community Bookstagram, I took a series of pictures and only posted a few. For many reasons, some straightforward, others weird, they laid deep in an onion ring of folders.

Many post-its later, fast forward to a few minutes ago, I faced the digging I’d been postponing and would be sharing them.

A lot has happened since then, my presence here has evolved and I have learnt quite a lot.
This community has grown in delightful ways and many of those whose pictures inspired me then have gone on to become award-winning book influencers.

I wasn’t called a nerd derisively here, I could just be me. I didn’t have to field ‘All these books you are reading sef, is a waste of energy when you will end up in a man’s kitchen’ type of comments

These three are part of a series of medical thrillers by Ted’s Gerritsen. I loved them! I was dreaming of becoming a physician and I had a love for literature some told me was incompatible with medicine. Thus, finding a New York Times bestselling author who was a doctor too was exhilarating in so many ways. Of course I used to enjoy Michael Crichton and Robin Cook but they were not female like me so it wasn’t as perfect as Tess. Representation matters.

My early days were thrilling. A community within Instagram where what I loved to do was shared by so many around the world! I remember the joy of having my photos liked by someone in Brazil whose page was all in Portuguese. Thousands of miles apart in distance yet bonded by our love for books.

I wasn’t called a nerd derisively here, I could just be me. I didn’t have to field ‘All these books you are reading sef, is a waste of energy when you will end up in a man’s kitchen’ type of comments. Not like these comments dented my spirit in anyway but it was exhausting having to put these ‘educated’ people in their place.

@aeesha__t, @bookminimalist @thatothernigeriangirl, @theguywiththebook, his sister @sumaiyya.books, their friends @pardonmywritings @ilhamreads and @i.reads and @alliyah.riaz all shaped my early experience. Many of them still do today. I was a silent observer of their discussions, their reviews, book shopping trips, and Lord, was there some drama! I’m happy to see they have all undergone remarkable growth. Thank you all for making Instagram pop for me.

When did you join Bookstagram?
What were your early days like?

______

With love,

Oumissa

060619

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Opinion

Class of ’18 ,University of Lagos

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Opinion

First Quarter 2019

Credit: Imgflip.com

Q 1

2019 sure is going by in a whoosh!

Appreciate what you’ve achieved in the past three months. Remember, comparing yourself to others will make you feel despondent.

Learn from them by all means but do not for one second think you are inferior because of some material achievement they’ve got and you have not. No two journeys are identical.

Focus on your growth and approach the next quarter with renewed zeal. 2019 will be a great year for you and you and you in shaa Allah.

With Love,

Oumissa,

Categories
Health Opinion Women

Of Prevention and Cures – Fighting Cervical Cancer



On either side of the Atlantic, two passionate individuals are taking the fight to cervical cancer. Both are women, have earned the Dr. title and are working tirelessly to save women from a preventable killer disease. What is particularly intriguing is the possibility that neither of them has met the other but are using different means to achieve a common goal; saving lives. These two are a source of inspiration for many. More crucially, they have become role models for millions of young women in developing countries and will motivate them to take up careers in STEM.Two days ago, the UN marked itsInternational Day for Women and Girls in Science.
For centuries, the immense contribution of women to science has been obscured. It is both illuminating and painful to discover advances in physics, chemistry, mathematics, health, programming, space science etc made or contributed to by women whose names have been buried in the footnotes. It is therefore imperative to celebrate those in our time doing such revolutionary work.


Meet our Women Crush Wednesday: Dr Onyedikachi Chioma Nwakanma and Dr Eva Ramon Gallegos.




Dr Nwakanma is a Nigerian doctor using storytelling for health advocacy. She is one of the foremost health advocates in a country where lack of health information increases the burden of disease and leads to thousands of death. She is a strong campaigner for cervical cancer awareness providing prevention, screening and treatment information to half a million people online.











Her impact is not restricted to the intricate highways of the internet. She is as tireless offline where she works on a variety of health programs. She organizes free health outreaches taking quality healthcare to underserved communities. Earlier today, Her Smile With Me NGO carried out a successful free cervical cancer screening program for hundreds of women in Lagos and Abia states. You can find her here on Twitter.




Dr Eva Ramon Gallegos is a Mexican scientist who has been working for two decades to find a cure for human papillomavirus, the pathogen implicated as the known cause of cervical cancer. She is a researcher at the National Polytechnic Institute. How does one keep up such determination and hope for that long? Many would have been discouraged but Dr Gallegos trudged on until a couple of days ago, she achieved her dream. Using photodynamic therapy, she and her team completely eliminated HPV in 29 infected patients. This article details the groundbreaking achievement that we must celebrate given its potential of saving millions of women.



We have a personal interest in this disease and thus all efforts and news like this make us jump for joy. It has always bothered us that something that can be easily treated and prevented still kills so many women. It feels like rainbows to know we now have a cure for the causative infection. There are valid concerns that historically, medical science has not given equal importance to women’s health. It is therefore of striking significance when women achieve feats that close that gap. This cure needs to be made accessible globally so it reaches those who need it the most.


To all the nerds and geeks out there you rock! Your work saves lives and its impact is felt around the world. To all who are working on an innovative solution to the problems facing us, hang in there and be patient. Learn from Dr Gallegos- stay strong, believe in your dream no matter what, keep working at it and don’t accept defeat.

The world awaits your work.

Oumissa,
Lagos Nigeria,
130219







Categories
Opinion

Telling Great Stories in Healthcare – An event review by Chiamaka Nwachukwu

A typical health message from the WhatsApp broadcast grapevine

If you have never received a message like this, then it is very likely you do not have Nigerian relatives.
We live in a world where almost everything is now accessible to anyone with a smartphone and an internet connection. Hence, we have access to all the information in the world-the good, the useless and the downright harmful. This accessibility has come with new opportunities for those of us in the health space, as well as a whole new set of challenges that our medical training may not have completely prepared us for.

Social media is an important tool for anyone who wants to truly thrive in this new world, and even health care providers and advocates have to step up. There is a lot of incorrect and sometimes even harmful information floating about the sociosphere. It is up to those of us who have the right information to ensure that we nullify the effects of all the fallacies, especially as regards health. This is the reason I attended the Social Media Week Health Stories event organised by HelloCare, Doctoora and Digital Health Nigeria.

The event held at the Doctoora Health Hub in Surulere, Lagos and they had this excellent lineup of speakers.

Kemi is everything goals!

I had met him at the beginning, and had no idea who he was until the end of the event! Gosh!

She kept us delightfully engaged!

There were other speakers, but I wasn’t present at those sessions.

I got there super late unfortunately, so I missed the keynote speech by Dr Salako of Redcare HMO and the panel. However, I was still able to join the masterclass with Dr Chioma Nwakanma (Dr Zobo) and I learnt stuff that I felt I just had to write about.

1)Storytelling is a skill you need to master
Think about the guys in the bus that market those herbal medications that supposedly cure premature ejaculation, cancer, TB, stroke, hypertension, diabetes and liver failure. How do they talk about their products? They weave stories that no one can ignore. Then they tell these stories with passion and persuasion.

Most importantly, they tell their stories using scenarios that everyone listening to them can relate with. They have an understanding of their audience and know that Nigerians like “multi-purpose drugs”.They realise that people are moved when they feel like they can mentally connect with a person. So, they use all these to their advantage.

On the other hand think about a typical health talk. Think about the infographics or flyers in a language the people may or may not understand. Think about the medics struggling to ditch their jargon for simpler words, and sometimes failing woefully.

Think about the last time you were counselling a hypertensive patient on lifestyle modifications. Think about how you looked at him/her and knew your words were falling on deaf ears.

Why does it seem like we are losing so many patients to “quacks” who sell them harmful medication? Why is it that, many times, the average person would believe the man on the bus without a WAEC certificate, and completely ignore what the lofty consultant with fancy degrees has told them to do? If we, as health personnel with all our training, are given the opportunity to take over the talk from the man in the bus, would we hold our audience as captive as he did?

This was the masterclass I attended. Go Afro Woman! Haha

These are points she made to highlight why it is important for us in the health space to step up and start to tell health stories correctly. As much as we have the right information, we also need to present our information in the most relatable way possible. It is important that the message in health care is crafted with the audience in mind. The end game is not just to get the information out there. The end game is to package the information and serve it in such a way that it is understood and put into action by your listeners (or readers).

2) Mentors and networks.
Networks are important. Many times, a relationship you have with an influential person is what opens a door for you. Social media has made it a lot easier to connect with potential mentors and important connections.

However, because these VIPs are now supposedly a bit more accessible, they are inundated by numerous people who also want something from them. Hence, to be able to make meaningful connections, you might have to do a bit more than countless LinkedIn messages. She shared these two thoughts:

Giving over taking

This may not be achievable all the time, but it is something to always have in mind. It is easier to forge a relationship with someone when you are giving them help or offering a service. Look at their social media pages. Is there something they are trying to achieve? How can you help? Do you have any skills they might find useful? Can you offer your services? To effectively network or gain good connections, it helps to think more about what you can offer the person, and not so much about what you stand to gain.

Interviews
Interviews can help to break the ice with a potential mentor for example. You could organise an Instagram live session, a YouTube interview, or even a blog interview with someone who is an expert in the field you are interested in. It is a good way to forge a new connection with someone who is far ahead in your field.

This post does not in any way cover most of what was talked about to be honest. However, these I have mentioned resonated with me the most.

This sandwich tasted way better than it looks!

To wrap this up, I have to say that the food was an impressive component of the program. I really appreciated that it was very healthy! I think every health organisation should take a cue from Hellocare Nigeria and Doctoora. It is a bit hypocritical to talk about healthy habits, and then hand out sodas at the end of the event. Let’s practice what we preach!

_____________

Chiamaka is a final year medical student of the University of Lagos, Nigeria and the immediate past editor-in-chief of its Association of Medical Students (AMSUL). She is interested in health management, health policy and public speaking. She reads a lot of random books and has an undying love for frozen yogurt. Her work can also be found on Medium