Sefi Atta’s A Bit of A Difference Book Cover

Detanglers and silk caps are now ways of expressing confidence in our richly textured Afro hair. If you were a woman of African descent at a certain time, you knew no other reality than relaxers, hot irons, hours under hot dryers, braids, wigs to be fashionable or even accepted.. It’s refreshing to see pride in natural hair have a resurgence..Hopefully it stays and doesn’t go away like the Afro movement of the 60s and 70s.

Other people wear their hair naturally, it should be a choice for us too. Myths about African women having short hair have been debunked with knowledge about how the pomade we’ve been sold for long hurt our hair growth. Now more and more women are relearning the hair care methods of our grandmothers, the miracle of coconut oil, natural hair styles in addition to recent advances in hair care. Our hair grows to great lengths and bulk when cared for properly.

Our hair grows to great lengths and bulk when cared for properly.

You can have healthy hair too. And be respected when on it. You shouldn’t lose a job offer because you express your natural self. You should not be forced to conform to European beauty standards in the public and in the home. It is disconcerting to hear that some African men ask their female partners not to wear their hair in its natural state. Hair is one of the ways we resist racism as it has been one of its tools for far too long.

Sefi Atta in a calming voice tells us the story of Deola a woman who grew up in the West and decided to come back to Nigeria. It details her experiences reuniting with relatives, adjusting to inconvenience like power outages, falling in love with the energy and warmth of home and finding love.

A narrative that explores the life of a young successful woman moving across continents and absorbing the tumultuous changes that come with it.

Enjoyable.

Easily a 4 star.

Collaboration, The Key to Healthcare Reform in Nigeria

Image Source- Nigeria Health Watch

The healthcare sector in Nigeria is in need of urgent development. Only when this change is led by the most influential players can the results be tangible. Titans of the industry and stakeholders from other sectors of the economy came together in Lagos recently to deliberate on solutions based on the public-private partnership model. The policy dialogue tagged ‘Disrupting Healthcare: PPPs As A Model For Health System Strengthening In Nigeria’ was organized by Nigeria Health Watch and PharmAccess group, two bodies improving access to healthcare in Nigeria using advocacy and technical assistance respectively.
Through partnerships, international organizations have rehabilitated health centres that had hitherto been operating below par. Most of this effort is targeted at the primary care level which is the first contact for eighty per cent of the population.

Nevertheless, health transformation is a struggle that must be undertaken across different levels. Much emphasis was placed on the new idea that for it to be sustainable, healthcare must be run as a business and not a social service.

Simple yet effective solutions like clean water and sanitation will yield the remarkable results in a country where forty-six million citizens stool in public. Currently, there is the binary option of care with the rich accessing the best available care and the rest of the country scrambling for what is left. The level of care in some primary healthcare centres is tragic. Quality is, therefore, a key element of viable healthcare PPPs.
There were two panel discussions with members from government and private institutions. The first emphasized the need for a stronger influence by doctors and other health stakeholders to push for reform at the federal level. The masses are more likely to protest against fuel price hikes but this energy is not reserved for another vital aspect of life- the dismal healthcare obtainable in many parts of the country.

It was also noted that the nation is in dire need of more health economists, health finance experts to formulate policy in the various health ministries. The current situation where every decision is made by only doctors whose training sadly often doesn’t include these fields will not help us achieve our goals.

Panel Session 1

Panel Session 1Session 1: Mr Voke Oshevire, Executive Director, Dr Ola Orekunrin-Brown, CEO, Flying Doctors Nigeria. Dr Jide Idris, Commissioner for Health, Lagos State. Mr Anthony Abou Nader, CEO, Tanit Medical Engineering. Dr Olaokun Soyinka, Director, Independent Verification Agent for Saving One Million Lives Nigeria. JNC International Ltd. Mr Abiodun Amokomowo CEO, Ibile Holdings Limited. Mr Felix Ezeh, Investment Executive, GroFin.
According to a recent TechCabal report on health tech sector, there are over eighty health tech companies in Nigeria providing solutions to a myriad of problems. Unfortunately, many entrepreneurs often lack access to financing and incentives to scale their companies. Creating an option for medical or premise licenses to be used as collateral was put forward.

Contrary to popular belief, finance is not limited to cash but includes personnel, material, endowments, real estate. It is imperative we are open to options and not be myopic. Patience is required of all involved for the process often isn’t an overnight one. Available resources must be maximized as wastage poses a huge threat to the proper utilization of allocated funds.

The true measure of a community’s health is the quality of its maternal care. –Dr Ifeanyi Nsofor

Government initiatives put in place through the Basic Health care Fund include those that simplify the payment process for people in need of care. The banking sector is contributing to healthcare by improving access to funds, educating providers on the cost benefits of establishing optimal services and facilitating partnerships. They also help health facilities bring their accounting systems to standard, provide flexible payment models and ensure controls are put in place to tackle the lack of trust.
In between the discussions were documentaries highlighting different missions to underserved areas showing the drastic impact personnel and cash financing bring to underserved communities, many of which are remote. Through initiatives like hospital camps, free emergency surgeries, education and health insurance; the quality of life in these communities was vastly improved with the joint efforts of PharmAccess and Toronto Hospital, local and state governments.

Panel Session 2

Panel Session 2

Session 2: Dr Tayo Lawal, Permanent Secretary, Lagos Primary Healthcare Board. Mrs Clare Omatseye, President, Healthcare Federation of Nigeria and Founder, JNCI. Dr Ben Nkechika, DG Delta State Contributory Health Commission. Dr Jide Idris, Commissioner for Health, Lagos. Prof Chris Bode, Chief Medical Director, Lagos University Teaching Hospital. Dr Oyebanji Filani, Senior Technical Assistant, Hon Minister for Health. Engr Chidi Izuwah DG/CEO, Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission.

Distrust of digital health records is rife in many centres necessitating gradual implementation and compromise. Pregnancy should not be an emergency as there is ample time to plan for childbirth. The absurdity of the current risk associated must be communicated with all members of the community. Mobile health clinics can be used in some areas to provide care and this circumvents the huge cost of facilities. These are a few examples of the unconventional options being applied in interventions across the country. In addition, adapting from a wide variety of working health systems worldwide to our local context will help us move closer to the desired level of development.
Nigerians spend millions of dollars on healthcare abroad. This amount is comparable to the health budget. This is a symptom of a deeper problem! Efforts need to be amped to ensure the working conditions here are brought to standard if we are serious about stemming the current tide of brain drain and haemorrhaging of funds to countries with better health systems. While some level of specialized care is available, most Nigerians do not know about it or trust it.

Documentary
Documentary

The onus is on us to build and maintain world class institutions to keep our health professionals, patients and money at home. To achieve this, the expertise and management of the private sector should be combined with the infrastructure and political will of the public sector. The distrust that currently exists between them can be mitigated by putting quality control in place. Within the private sector itself, collaboration rather than competition should be the watchword. This will help the health sector to be unified force and voice at the policy-making table for lasting progress.

The future is so bright, you are going to need sunglasses.

Mrs Clare Omatseye

On the bone of contetion that is health insurance in Nigeria, theappalling extent of coverage ofe constitues a barrier to providing universal health care. This has left the crowdfunding method of health financing as the only hope of many in need of expensive care. The estimates hover around one to five percent. Only twenty-eight states have a legal framework for health insurance with some like Lagos and Osun implementing state level schemes.

Through public-private partnership, government centres have been outsourced to the private sector with improved efficiency of service delivery, a marked reduction in mortality, increased profits and sustainability. Adequate communication at all levels with all stakeholders is however crucial to the success of these models as there exists cynicism towards it. Infrastructural gaps have been filled.

It is reassuring to see many stakeholders working and committing to improving the Nigerian health sector. Hopefully, these forged partnerships yield measurable results soon. To achieve the phenomenal change needed, we must be ready to disrupt!

Dr Mariam Toye

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







A Choice ,A Right

“My major concern is the approval of Hijab so that every person coming behind me will be able to use it for the call to bar (ceremony).” Amasa Firdaus- Premium Times Much vitriol has been directed at her for standing up for her rights protected by the Nigerian constitution. For this, Amasa Firdaus, a law graduate of the University of Ilorin, Nigeria was denied entry into the Call to bar ceremony. It is ironic that a country with a significant Muslim population still has Islamophobia. However this is in a wider background of rife religious intolerance with secularity being used as a smokescreen often used to discriminate against other religions. In addition, it is another example of disregard for the rights of women. While the support of Muslim leaders is appreciated, more needs to be done, especially by those in the top echelons of the legal profession. The ignorance being displayed by some Muslims when such matters arise highlights the problems facing our religious education. It would have been great if the other Muslim barristers stood with Firdaus. It was indeed difficult and would have taken lots of courage but might have brought about swift resolution. One also wonders why this was kept in obscurity until now. The much-touted clamour for unity should be for matters like this and not to accept innovations in our Deen.

US Army National Guard officer Saudat Al-Maroof-Bakare faced a similar struggle and she secured her rights. Women in different fields like Ginella Massa, Ibtihaj Muhammed, Kadra Muhamed, Amal Chammout, Sultan Tafadar and Raffia Arshad have shown that the hijab does not diminish professional ability. Firdaus also brings to mind all the men and women who fought slavery, segregation and other forms of discrimination…. all of which were legal at the time. She is following in the footsteps of Rosa Parks, Nelson Mandela and Desmond Doss whose sacrifice have helped countless others after them. Like them, she will be criticized and insulted and told to let it go, asked why she chose that line of action and will be left to bear the consequences. Like them, I hope she goes down in history as a change maker. Like many Nigerian Muslim women who observe the hijab, I have faced many instances of anti-hijab sentiment and policies. I will share a couple of them. During my general practice rotation in medical school, we were posted to private hospitals. When I showed up at mine, I was told in a derisive tone that ‘this’ (the HR lady pointed at my hijab) will not be allowed. I told her ‘this’ is called a hijab and is part of my identity. It had never disturbed my training. I was hurt, disturbed and felt like I had to choose between my faith and my medical education both of which were very important to me. At the time, I was a volunteer at an international organization here in Nigeria. Prior to that I had lived in the UK and in both settings had never been told to remove my hijab for work, school, services or any other reason. My choice was respected and accepted. To make the situation even more incongrous, a non-Muslim relative of mine owned an excellent hospital and some of the nurses wore hijab with their uniform. I went back to school with my colleague (who was not wearing a hijab). I made enquiries about the marks for the rotation so I could plan how to make a passing grade if I had to forfeit it. After I explained how important my hijab was, she was supportive and I appreciated her for this. Most importantly, my family, like Firdaus’s were on my side throughout the episode. I did not expect the reaction of my lecturers. They made an announcement in class that any discrimination faced by any of us should be reported and such hospitals would subsequently be excluded from the rotation. My colleague and I were then posted to other hospitals. I ended up under the tutelage of a medical director who made the experience memorable and beneficial to my career. My colleague also enjoyed her new place. Contrary to what many of the social media comments say, there are numerous Muslim women who practice medicine with their hijabs including surgeons who wear sterile hijabs with their scrubs in theatre.

Recently at NYSC camp, an official tried to humiliate me by pointing derisively at my hijab and saying in front of hundreds of fellow corps members that she was not going to accept this dressing at parades. I smiled and did not engage her because I knew she was wrong. Thankfully, many Muslim women wore their hijab and completed the compulsory youth service orientation with no incident. I tell my story because Firdaus needs to know she is not alone. Her actions have shown the enormous task we have as Nigerians to eschew hatred and intolerance. Peaceful coexistence can work and is what we need to achieve development.

To those who still think she was wrong, I ask that you watch the movie Hacksaw Ridge and google Pfc Desmond Doss, the Conscientious Objector. #istandwithAmasa #AmasaFirdaus

LINKS

Interview with Amasa Firdaus: https://www.premiumtimesng.com/news/headlines/252618-hijab-controversy-affected-law-graduate-amasa-firdaus-speaks.html

Nigerian-born US soldier with a similar experience. http://legendlens.com/fridausa-amasa-vs-nigeria-law-school-nigeria-lawyer-shares-wifes-experiences-in-us-military-training-school/

Opinion by Ashraf Akintola: http://legendlens.com/fridausa-amasa-vs-nigeria-law-school-is-she-the-only-one-by-ashraf-akintola/ Analysis of Nigerian laws allowing Hijab: http://legendlens.com/prohibition-of-the-use-of-hijab-veil-in-some-public-institutions-what-is-the-position-of-the-law-by-o-g-chukkol/

UN Petition: https://www.change.org/p/united-nations-stop-the-religious-bias-against-hijab-in-the-nigerian-law-profession?recruiter=210341501&utm_source=share_petition&utm_campaign=share_page&utm_medium=whatsapp

A critical look at neo-colonialism in the profession. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/africa/its-been-50-years-since-britain-left-why-are-so-many-african-judges-still-wearing-wigs/2017/09/14/6dc03b50-7ea6-40f8-9481-7f034498a790_story.html BBC article http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-42371525 Nigerian Bar Association President: http://www.lawyard.ng/justiceforfirdaus-argument-over-hijab-needless-we-will-address-it-nba-president/?utm_campaign=shareaholic&utm_medium=twitter&utm_source=socialnetwork#JusticeForFirdaus

Al-Jazeera article http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/12/nigerian-law-graduate-denied-call-bar-hijab-171216084329791.html

October Tijaarah Tea by SMD

Mixed salad. One of the five courses.

If you attended previous editions or at least read reviews, then you have an idea what to expect with the just concluded one. It was the first one to be held at the SMD Place; a thoughtfully and aesthetically designed space.

The opportunity to learn the principles guiding business in Islam, network with active Muslimah-preneurs, being taught valuable lessons ladies seasoned in business is indeed unique. Did I mention the five -course delicious meal which was prepared sans artificial seasoning? It was indeed great value for money.

The introduction part was fun! Sisters got to know each other through their professions and businesses. It is amazing how many different ways the attendees are impacting society. Old acquaintances reconnected and new ones were made.

Next up was a lesson by Sister Rofia Olaniyan explaining the Shar’i rulings on contemporary forms of business. Many grey areas were clarified because keeping it halal is so crucial.

Then came Hajia Nurat Atoba, the MD of BT Ventures Ltd. In a very captivating manner, she shared practicable ways to succeed as a woman both in the home and at work. There were countless gems to select from her wealth of experience and success in running a successful business alongside demanding roles as wife and mother.

SMD still had more in store. Mrs Gbemmy Oyekan-Fasasi the e-commerce guru charged the cozy atmosphere with awe-inspiring tips on running a lucrative online business. The level of motivation was off the charts. It is safe to say, no one expected to be so serenaded.

Mrs Sharifah Yunus-Olokodana (culinary artist and the brain behind SMD) shared illuminating lessons from her business journey. As always, they were priceless.

In all, it was a great way for this unique group of women to spend Independence Day- working towards being more economically viable and by extension, productive citizens.

P.S. If you haven’t already signed up for the next edition, kindly send a DM for more details.

Back

To all those who have kept up hopes that this site will wake up one day, I say thank you!

A lot has been happening but i think it’s time to stop all the talk and do some writing.

From a recently concluded credible election in The State of Osun, Nigeria to the very deadly Ebola, from the current Boko Haram siege in Gwoza, North East Nigeria and all the rife in Gaza and Iraq, there is just too much to think about, discuss, find solutions and yes, pray about.

Would try my best to keep you posted!

 

Of Eclipses Partial and Total

From literature books where they were a cause of much consternation to our ancestors to elementary science where they were illustrated with diagrams of the sun, moon and the earth; eclipses have always been phenomena of amazement.

Till today I still find them awe-inspiring. The last one I saw was in 2006. I remember it was a big day in school where everyone viewed it as reflections in large basins of water placed on the assembly ground for that purpose. It was beautiful and special.

Today, much the wonder remains the same. It doesn’t matter to me whether it’s solar,lunar,total or partial. At first, it didn’t seem like it was going to happen. I mean who isn’t tired of Nigerian BBM broadcasts and their propensity to contain rumours already? I got a lot of messages saying to avoid superstition and pray instead.

Suddenly, I got a picture thrust in my face. The eclipse! Taken right where I was! Excited, I ran outside and marvelled at the beauty of Allah’s Creation. Everyone around came out and took pictures. It felt really great.

Even more amazing is what I have learnt today about eclipses. I would love to share it with you.

During the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), there was a solar eclipse on the day that his son Ibrahim died. Some superstitious people said that the sun eclipsed because of the young child’s death and the Prophet’s sadness on that day. The Prophet corrected their understanding.

Narrated Al-Mughira bin Shu’ba: On the day of Ibrahim’s death, the sun eclipsed and the people said that the eclipse was due to the death of Ibrahim (the son of the Prophet). Allah’s Apostle said, “The sun and the moon are two signs amongst the signs of Allah. They do not eclipse because of someone’s death or life. So when you see them, invoke Allah and pray till the eclipse is clear.”

Reasons that Muslims should be humble before Allah during an eclipseAn eclipse is a sign of the majesty and power of Allah.Narrated Abu Masud: The Prophet said, “The sun and the moon do not eclipse because of the death of someone from the people but they are two signs amongst the signs of Allah. When you see them, stand up and pray.”
http://islamqa.info/en/9954
Please follow the links below to learn how to pray this salah.
Lets revive a sunnah in our community and enlighten those who are not aware.
Baarakallaah feekum.

How to pray Salaat al-Kusoof (prayer when there is an eclipse)?
http://islamqa.info/en/6111

Call to the eclipse prayer should be made by saying “Al-Salaatu jaami’ah
http://islamqa.info/en/9954

P.S If you are living among Yoruba-speaking people, do not be surprised to be greeted or visited, “Eku eclipsi yii”. They have a special greeting for everything and everybody!
More hilarious are those Nigerians that must celebrate everyday and so would ask, ‘Wetin we go use take wash this eclipse nah?’