9jafeminista: Can you tell us your major driving force?
Ugo Chime: I don’t know if I have a neat answer for this. When I was a kid, I hated how much I lacked even though I shouldn’t. I’ve already talked about my dad about my dad right? (check article here and here) And how he had money but he didn’t share it with his family. I hated that. I hated how little money my mom had. I hated how asking my dad for money (for what I considered necessities) turned into such big a production. How you had to beg and beg. Pray he was in a good mood, that he wasn’t fighting with mum, because if any of these conditions are in place, you won’t get a kobo.
I hated the begging. My god, I hated the begging above everything else! So I was eager to go out there and start making my own money, so I didn’t have to beg anyone for a dime. In a way, you could say that’s what has driven me, the phobia for being at someone’s mercy.
Ugo Chime: I want my own money. I never feel any money earned by my husband belongs to me, it’s his money, to do with as he pleases.
9jafeminista: Would you say you chose your career as a public health practitioner of your career chose you?
Ugo Chime: My first degree is in food science I wanted to do my masters in human nutrition, it was an aspect of food science I really clicked with, but after graduating from the university, I had to work, I was sick to death of begging my daddy for money. I was in a damn hurry to leave home for ever. I went to live with my sister and her husband, he’s a doctor and had an NGO. I started volunteering at his NGO, while looking for a job. When after 6 months I couldn’t get a job, he asked a friend of his whose NGO was more active, to take me on and pay me a salary, and that was how it began. Since then I’ve worked exclusively with NGOs.
Human nutrition was modified, with more knowledge, to an interest in public health nutrition, but it was rather narrow field. Besides, I became more passionate about women issues, maternal, child and newborn health (MCNH), I decided to focus on public health and as a wider field and health policy because I wanted to move from working with all these ‘oyibos’ who tell u what’s good for you, to working with national and state governments.
So, my big dream: to work with national and state governments in health policy, become a consultant to policy makers, get my PhD, maybe lecture…
9jafeminista: As somebody who has worked with several NGOs in Nigeria how would you rate their performance?
Ugo Chime: The international ones?
9jafeminista: Both the international and Nigerian ones
Ugo Chime: To be honest, Nigerian NGOs are far behind in what they could do, far behind, maybe that’s because I’m comparing them with UK third sector. There’s too much acceptance of the spoon-feeding by donors and the international NGOs, I would say it’s dismal.
9jafeminista: And what would you say about MCNH in Nigeria?
Ugo Chime: You know how bad our indicators are now, our maternal mortality rate is one of the highest in the world, we have a poor health system, we have the patriarchy, we have the poor proportion of girl child education.
9jafeminista: Would you say local NGOs are actually doing what they are receiving funding for?
Ugo Chime: They are, but that’s the thing! It shouldn’t be donors deciding what direction these NGOs should be taking. Of course there are others who aren’t serious, but these donors have strict accounting policies. So, when it comes to ticking off boxes, the local NGOs are doing it, Donor says train 500 men and women about the importance of hand washing, the local NGOs will bring you attendance sheet with probably 502 people trained. So, box ticked, but it doesn’t mean that’s what’s needed. It doesn’t mean that the training won’t die with the first set of people trained. That there is a trickle down effect.
It’s really for local NGOs to say, “No this is what is effective. This isn’t what will resonate with our people. Here and here ae what we really need.” That sort of thing
9jafeminista: Why can’t the local NGOs tell funders their methods are not effective?
Ugo Chime: They are doing it, just not on a large enough scale to cause a ripple effect. Not enough to get the donors to change their mode of engagement with the local ones. Right now, all the power is with big donors. They dictate the tune.
9jafeminista: If you were in a position to proffer a solution to the problems besieging Maternal Child and Newborns Health what would it be?
Ugo Chime: MCNH is complex, to be honest. It’s not like “he broke his leg, put him in POP, give the leg time to heal.” There are so many things contributing to the poor indicators. Things that aren’t easy to solve. We can say lets improve our health system. Let’s make healthcare for women and children free, because many women are poor. We could say make education free. There are so many things we can say would work but when it’s implemented it doesn’t, because new problems crop up. For example women don’t trust medical professionals, so make healthcare free as much as you like, but they aren’t going to come near a clinic. Make education free, but they believe an educated woman won’t get a husband, so they’d rather be illiterates.
9jafeminista: Would you say that there’s so much witchcraft going on that one could say it is the cause of the high figures in maternal and child mortality in Nigeria? This is because a lot of Nigerian women prefer going to churches or mosques, or through other spiritual avenues rather than hospitals.
Ugo Chime: I’d say the suspicion of witchcraft has been quite insane in leading to the death of many pregnant women. They refuse to seek medical intervention when things are going just awful during pregnancy.
They are going to prayer houses, pastors… whomever. Fervently believing someone is trying to kill them, that what is wrong is spiritual and so can be countered through spiritual means. Meanwhile things are getting worse for them, making it harder for medical intervention.
9jafeminista: Well, this can be due to the fear that medical practitioners are not spiritual enough to counter the attacks from the dark side.
Ugo Chime: I don’t believe in witches. I don’t believe in devil. I want to say I don’t believe in god, but am still undecided. I’m closer to not believing in god than in believing. So, the entire concept of witches is bullshit to me and I think people who believe in them are idiots.
Ugo Chime: No. I know feminists who are Christians, who also believe in evil spirits, they may not think its exclusively in the form of females, they accept that evil can manifest as a female as well as male
9jafeminista: Who would you say has been the greatest influence in your life?
Ugo Chime: My father
9jafeminista: Please can you explain how?
Ugo Chime: Well, he’s a presence that looms over everything. Trying to escape him and his stinginess. Trying to fight his idea of how a ‘proper’ woman behaves. Marrying a man who is exactly NOT LIKE HIM! Trying to be exactly the kind of parent he isn’t, I dare say that till date I’m still trying to prove to him that I’m none of the things he used to say I am.