From the Editor: Temie Giwa-Tubosun is one of the many young ladies in Nigeria working hard to change things in our health sector. Instead of just ranting about the poor state of our health sector from far away “in the abroad”, chomping down on her proverbial Big Mac and maxing out her credit card (like so many of us are wont to do) she came back home to put down roots and DO something about it.
During her interview we talked about the north, the perception of people about women from that part of Nigeria, maternal mortality and best of all she talks about the fact that the oturkaporkpor you’re planning to put in your lover’s food MIGHT-JUST-WORK!
9jafeminista: In your article you talked about trying on different kinds of feminism before deciding to tailor one to suit you and in the same breath you talked about returning to Nigeria
Would you say that feminism brought you home?
Temie: I believe a struggle with identity brought me home the first time and a commitment to what I found, when I came the first time, made the final move possible and perhaps even easier.
I came home in 2009 deeply confused about a few things, the question of God and agnosticism, feminism and how lipsticks and high heels fit into all that, what I was going to do with my life and etc. When I got home (I lived and worked in the North for a few months) I found myself, at least a version that has lasted so far… Oh dear, that sounds so clichéd but it is true. I found a version of myself that I was comfortable with and that made me come home finally 3 years later.
And that included a feminism that I was comfortable with.
So I think I find that Nigerian women paid attention to how they look and there doesn’t seem to be any conflict with their femininity and feminism, especially in the North. The women I met in Kano and Jigawa, I know they aren’t the norm so I might be a bit biased, were all lovely but strong and ready to change their culture and I wanted something similar for myself.
I had a colleague whose hijab always matched her jalabaya and her nail polish but she spent her weekends counseling HIV positive sex workers in the slums of Kano. Giving them tools that will help them lead easier lives. I have lost touch with her she had a great deal of influence on my life. I remember that her spouse wanted to marry a second wife at the time and the great conflict she felt and her determination to find a better way remained with me and allowed me to create myself and perhaps consolidate my feminism and femininity into a real whole.
9jafeminista: Was the first three months you spent in the north your first time ever in Nigeria?
Temie: Oh no. I left Nigeria when I was much younger, it was my first time in the country as an adult.
9jafeminista: I’d like us to talk about Northern women. The single story about then is that they are a bunch of oppressed women who do not work. They are usually uneducated and at married off early… What is your impression about them? Would you say these assumptions are untrue?
Temie: My impression is a lot more robust. I lived and worked with them for a few months and helped to deliver services to a lot of them in the rural areas.
They are like most people, complex. Some are brave and willing to spit in the face of tradition and culture. Some are quite fine with the patriarchy and just want to be left alone and some are the gatekeepers of the patriarchy. A lot of them I know struggle with polygamy, many of them are professionals, and many are independent.
I was lucky to meet women from different socioeconomic classes. I met professional women, seasoned executives and small business owners. I met high level civil servants and rural women who are living in horrid poverty.
For example, my dress designer had a huge shop in suburban Kano and had about 5 men who were her tailors, she employed them and made their lives possible. I also met a woman who had been in labor for a few days and who was so poor that she couldn’t get to the hospital and was going to die.
I think that’s the interesting thing about travel, it forces you to see people clearly and yanks away the comfort of the single story brings.
9jafeminista: We know you’re running a not-for-profit project can you tell us a little about it?
Temie: Access to clean, safe, blood is incredibly hard in Nigeria and this affects women significantly. Hemorrhage after delivery is the second highest cause of maternal mortality in Nigeria. Almost 25% of child mortality can be traced back to lack of clean safe blood. Blood transfusion still accounts for about 10% of all new HIV cases in Nigeria. It’s insane. One Percent Project works to provide clean, safe, and affordable blood for the people who need it the most.
9jafeminista: So what are the advocacy tools you use for your project?
Temie: We sponsor blood drives in higher institutions. We are in the middle of a 2 day blood drive in OAU and we have collected almost 2,000 pints of blood – that is 6,000 lives saved. We are in the process of completing our app that will connect donors to recipient in emergencies and many more tools in the pipeline.
9jafeminista: You’re doing amazing work! Well done Temie!
Temie: Thank you, 9jafeminista.
9jafeminista: As you well know we’re very irreverent at 9jafeminista. Can you tell me what you know about oturumapokpor aka love potion aka efo?
Temie: Laughter … Well I have never used it and to my knowledge it hasn’t been used on me.
Will it work? It probably could… I mean there are drugs that enhance and changes moods to a significant level and we all believe in their efficacy… right? So, why not oturumapokpor?
Oturumapokpor is probably a drug that enhances the dopamine level of the drugged… Methinks.
9jafeminista: Does that mean you believe in the existence of witches? Actually the question occurred to me when you said in your article that nobody seems to be able to explain why maternal mortality rates are so high in Nigeria… Witchcraft?
Temie: Well. Witches are probably people who learnt to pay attention to instinct and could thus predict certain events. Witch doctors were probably folks with extensive knowledge of the natural world (herbs / lotions / potions ) and over time can create concoctions that saved lives.
I think we really just aren’t paying attention to why we keep burying thousands of mothers.