‘I foresee more females studying professional courses’

Dr. Zuwaira Ibrahim Hassan is a community health worker volunteer who is passionate about girl-child education, most importantly in the medical field.  She is well known in Jos, Plateau state, for her passion in promoting health through education and enlightenment. In this chat with MUHAMMAD TANKO SHITTU in Jos, she narrates her life experiences, which according to her involve so many community activities that affect lives directly.

May we know your profile in brief?
I am Dr. Zuwaira Hassan Ibrahim.  I was born in Toro, Bauchi state, to the family of Alhaji Adamu Garkuwa.  I am married to Mallam Hassan Ibrahim, a lecturer with the University of Jos, and we are blessed with three male children, namely, Ahmad, Ibrahim (Khalil) and Abdullahi. I had my primary school education in ATBU staff school Bauchi, and my secondary school education in Federal Government Girls College, Bauchi, and later attended University of Jos where I studied Medicine and Surgery. I am presently a lecturer with the Department of Community Medicine, University of Jos, and also a Consultant Community Health Physician with the Jos University Teaching Hospital (JUTH).

How was life at the early stage?
Life at the early stage was interesting, I had good education because my father was educated and placed high value for our education (me and my other siblings), and he made sure we all had good education. At the age of six years I started my primary school education while growing up with my elder sister whom I see as my role model. At that time, many female children were not going to school so I considered myself very lucky.  Then, the highest level of education a family would allow girl children attain was primary school.
I went to Federal Government Girls College, Bauchi, where I had a balanced mix of interaction with students from all walks of life with different tribal and religious backgrounds.
This exposure really gave me a broad perspective to life, more importantly, the fact that our teachers were very good, qualified and selfless. Following the completion of my secondary school education I got admission into the University of Jos, where I studied Medicine and Surgery and bagged my MBBS degree. This was followed by one-year mandatory internship at the Jos University Teaching Hospital (JUTH) where I also did my NYSC after completing the internship. I immediately commenced my specialty training in Community Medicine in the Department of Community Medicine, Jos University Teaching Hospital, where I bagged a fellowship in Community Medicine from the National Postgraduate Medical College of Nigeria.

How has it been in the medical profession?
Well, the profession is quite noble but challenging because it requires complete dedication and service to humanity and, more importantly, the need for constant self-improvement and skill acquisition.

What do you think are the challenges of girl-child education?
The challenges with girl-child education are enormous because the girl-child in our culture is always seen as second to the male child and she is expected to stay at home and run errands. Therefore, there is need for attitudinal change both at the family and the community levels. Even Islam teaches us to seek knowledge and this knowledge cuts across both Islamic and secular, and this is not restricted to male child alone. We tend to forget that there are some professional courses that women are seriously needed in, like medical profession, teaching and others. I am also advocating that parents should strive to see that their daughters are educated at least up to the university level.

Are you satisfied with the present situation?
No, I am not yet satisfied, more so, if you compare our level of education here in the north to the south, you will see that we are just starting, though we are really trying and we must encourage our girl-child whom we find very brilliant.

On a general note, are you satisfied with the number of females in the medical profession in Nigeria?
Again, I am not, simply because the larger number of male physicians attend to female patients and that also poses the challenge of most men not allowing their wives to go to the hospital, especially during delivery, thereby the women end up delivering at home with attendant high morbidity and mortality.

How convenient is managing the home front and public functions?
It has not been easy but I thank God that my husband whom I got married to one month after my secondary school has been quite supportive and encouraging because even when I was a student he always encouraged me to study and he was very supportive. In this light, I would also encourage men to support their wives, their family members too should they want to get education. It was because of my husband’s support I did all my university studies as a married woman.

What do you hope for the girl-child?
I hope to see that in the nearest future all our girls are educated, at least up to secondary school level. I also envisage that we will have more females studying in professional courses so that we can together contribute to improving the health indices  in our state and more importantly in Northern Nigeria.

Dr.  Zuwaira Hassan is famous to Jos residents.   What is the secret?
There is no secret other than the passion I have for promoting the health of the people through education and public health enlightenment.  I am involved in so many community activities that have direct bearing on the people’s lives, educating them on matters related to personal hygiene and environmental sanitation, etc.

How are you funding the projects?
We work with a numbers of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs). I am a member of the Muslim AIDS Initiative of Nigeria and the Muslim Medical Association of Nigeria. We mostly source for funds from philanthropists and some development partners. For instance, after the last (2012) flood disaster that affected our people at Rikkos and Gangare, we solicited for funds and we got from well meaning individuals and organisations.  We have also secured grants from NGOs like APIN for HIV/AIDS project in the communities. I also spend out of my pocket if need be.

What is your call on the people?
I will say peaceful co-existence is very important, without which no meaningful development can be achieved. In the area of health, am appealing to the people to embrace prevention actions such as immunisation, personal hygiene, etc, because it is the only cost effective way of staying healthy.

Do you have role models?
Yes, I have the teachings of the glorious Qur’an, the traditions of Prophet Muhammad (SAW), the footsteps of his wives, as well as my elder sister whom I always look up to as my role model.

What are your hobbies?
My hobbies are reading and serving humanity. I like volunteer work.

What are your likes and dislikes and things you regret?
Certainly I like truthfulness and honesty. I always like to remember all the support   I have received from my husband and family members. One thing that I don’t want to remember  was having to wait for  two years before I did my NYSC, as I was posted far away from my family despite providing proof that I was married.

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